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Batting in middle-order is not new for me, so no pressure: Ambati Rayudu

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Ambati Rayudu

Visakhapatnam | Anointed as India’s number four in the ODI format with the World Cup in mind, Ambati Rayudu on Tuesday said the responsibility does not pressurise him at all, as he preferred to stay in the present.

India and West Indies are locked in a five-match ODI series, with the home team leading 1-0 on the eve of the second match here. “Not really,” Rayudu said when asked if he is feeling any pressure three days after skipper Virat Kohli backed him for a position for which the team management has tried as many as seven batsmen since the tour of Sri Lanka in 2017.

The 33-year-old began his first-class career way back in 2001-02 but had to wait till 2013 to make his international debut, against Zimbabwe, aged 28. The Hyderabad batsman added, “To be very honest, I am just focused on this series at the moment and not really thinking too far ahead. “I don’t think it is new for me as I have been batting in the middle order for long. There is nothing new that they have asked me to do.

Rayudu was dropped from the Indian ODI squad headed for England earlier this year for failing the mandatory yo-yo test, but has since made it clear that he has nothing against strict fitness benchmark. “I have been working on my fitness right from my injury. I don’t think yo-yo test had any bearing on how I was preparing or how I was going about my fitness. Even now I am going to the NCA, there is a small pocket of free time for a week and I am happy that I cleared the test. “I think even before the IPL, it’s not that I was not in contention. It’s just that I had few injuries. IPL was good platform to come back strong, especially on my fitness.”

In the two Tests as well as the only ODI played so far, the West Indies bowling attack was not able to challenge the Indian batting enough, something that has so far deprived the home team of a chance to test its middle-order ahead of the 2019 showpiece event. Asked about it, Rayudu did not read much into it.

“Obviously it’s great that top three are doing so well for India. It’s a challenge for the middle order to always be ready to get in and bat. I am sure everybody is up for it, everybody knows the situation. “It’s just one game (the first ODI in Guwahati), I think they bowled really well and it’s just that Virat and Rohit batted brilliantly. They will pose a good challenge in the coming games.”

Kohli and Sharma slammed big hundreds as India, chasing 323, cantered to an eight-wicket win with almost eight overs to spare in the series-opener.

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Women’s World T20: Spinners shine as India beat Ireland to enter semi-finals

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Providence (Guyana) | Indian spinners produced yet another controlled performance to clinch a semi-final berth with a comfortable 52-run victory against Ireland in a group league encounter of the ICC Women’s World T20 on Thursday. After managing 145 for 6 on a slow track, Indian spinners maintained tight leash on Irish women restricting them to 93 for 8 in 20 overs.

With their third win, India with six points were assured of a last-four spot along with Australia (6 points from 3 games) with New Zealand, Pakistan and Ireland already even before their campaign could officially end. While India’s batting performance leaving a lot to be desired, the spinners Radha Yadav (3/25 in 4 overs), Deepti Sharma (2/15 in 3 overs), Poonam Yadav (1/14 in 4 overs) and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur (1/10 in 4 overs) were economical as well picked wickets at regular intervals. India’s strategy of packing off-side cordon and bowling wide of stumps, paid off as Ireland were never in the chase conceding as many as 65 dot balls (nearly 11 overs).

Once Deepti got rid of Gaby Lewis (9) with a classical off-break and Poonam’s loopy leg-break saw the end of Clare Shillington (23) stumped by Taniya Bhatia, Ireland had no chance whatsoever. Earlier, riding on a painstaking half-century from former skipper Mithali Raj, India managed only 145 for six after being put into bat.

Promoted to open the batting, veteran Mithali (51 off 56 balls) added 67 runs in 10 overs with Smriti Mandhana (33, 29 balls) but the innings never gained required momentum on a track that remained a bit damp due to overnight showers. The decision to bring in Jemimah Rodrigues at No 3, didn’t quite work out well as Mithali never got going despite hitting four boundaries and a six.

Having effectively scored 22 off five deliveries, Mithali scored another 21 off 51 balls. Her failure to rotate the strike did affect the momentum once Mandhana was bowled by medium pacer Kim Garth, trying a wild slog. She hit four boundaries and a six. Young Rodrigues hit three fours in his 11-ball-18 but was stumped off Laura Delany’s wide delivery when she tried to give charge.

Skipper Harmanpreet hit a six but was soon dismissed. As wickets fell at one end, Mithali couldn’t shift gears at the other end. She was finally out in the 19th over, deceived by a slower delivery from Garth but India’s chances of putting up a substantial total had gone up in smoke by then.

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Athlete commits suicide at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium premises, SAI orders internal inquiry

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Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium

New Delhi | Parvinder Chaudhary, an 18-year-old athlete who represented India at international level, committed suicide by hanging himself from a ceiling fan at the capital’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, prompting the Sports Authority of India to order a “departmental inquiry”. Chaudhary was found hanging from the ceiling fan in his hostel room at the athletics academy of JLN stadium.

“We have ordered a departmental inquiry as the incident happened in our premises. The inquiry will be headed by Secretary SAI Swarn Singh Chabra and it should be completed within a week,” SAI Director General Neelam Kapur told PTI. Hailing from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, the athlete was brain dead by the time he was rushed to the Safdarjung Hospital, and could not be revived.

Apparently, he took the extreme step after an argument with his father over monetary issues, the top SAI official said. His fellow trainees and staff at the stadium were shocked as the athlete showed no signs of depression while training through the day. Kapur said, “Preliminary it seems a family matter related to monetary issues. What we came to know is that the boy had an argument with his father in the morning on phone after which his sister came to meet him in evening. He took the step in front of his sister after threatening her. She came out screaming and our staff immediately went there and brought him down.”

Parvinder, who was residing in room No.69 of JLN Stadium hostel since November 2016 and was training for 100 and 200 metre races, came back to his room at 5.30 in the evening and committed suicide half an hour later. “It is a very sad and tragic incident. We are extending all possible help to the family and have arranged for the transportation of his body to Aligarh. “Our officers will also accompany his body to ensure smooth conduct of his last rites.” Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who is in Rajasthan, has been informed and he has expressed his grief on the incident.

In 2017, he was selected for the Asian Youth Championship in Bangkok and won gold medal in relay. He also participated at the World Youth Championship last July. “He was alive when he was taken to Safdarjung but was brain dead and doctors couldn’t revive him. After initial treatment, he was taken to hospital half an hour later. He was in emergency,” another SAI official said.

He added, “His room mate and all the trainees and staff at JLN stadium were completely surprised by his act as the entire day he trained and showed no signs of depression.

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Dhawan’s return to form was important ahead of Australia tour: Rohit Sharma

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Shikhar Dhawan

Chennai | India’s stand-in captain Rohit Sharma said it was important for Shikhar Dhawan to return to form ahead of the crucial tour of Australia, which will be a completely “different ball game”.

Dhawan, who struggled throughout the preceding ODI series against West Indies, returned to form with a smashing 92 off 62 balls to help India beat the visitors by six wickets in the final T20 and complete a 3-0 series sweep. Dhawan and young Rishabh Pant (53 off 25) stitched 130 runs off 80 balls for the third wicket on Sunday to lay the foundation for the win after India were in a spot of bother at 45 for 2 while chasing 182.

“It was important from the team’s perspective and for the players to get some runs ahead of the important Australia tour. Shikhar especially was batting well in the ODI series but he was not able to get big scores. I am glad that he could play a match-winning knock and get some form under his belt before the crucial tour,” Rohit said.

“Rishabh was also hungry to go out and get some runs. It was the perfect situation. We were two down inside the first six overs. There was a bit of pressure as well. They handled it well and it was a match-winning partnership. It is important in the team’s perspective that both these guys got runs,” he said. India’s tour of Australia starts with the three-match T20 series at Brisbane on November 21.

Rohit said the upcoming tour of Australia will be a completely “different ball-game” and India must take confidence from the 3-0 win. “It is always challenging when it comes to going out there and performing. Every time you go there, you are tested as a player, as an individual and as a team. Australia will be a different ball game,” he said.

“When you win a series like this, you are high on confidence and it is all about taking that confidence there. We have to keep repeating the performances. It is a never-ending story,” added Rohit. He said the team had ticked quite a few boxes during the just-concluded series and fielding was one of them.

“We ticked a lot of boxes. Particularly, I am happy how we fielded. I think we fielded really well in the tournament. In batting and bowling, there will be mistakes and there will be some good performances,” Rohit said. Rohit has also been picked in India’s Test squad to face Australia, but he said he wasn’t thinking that far.

“I think there is still time before that. We have the T20Is and practice games before the first Test match. I am not thinking about the Test match. I am someone who doesn’t think too far ahead. All I am thinking of is going back, taking a few days off, and take the flight to Australia and prepare for the T20 series,” Rohit said.

“We will have enough time to think about Test matches after that. If I try and stay in present, it works for me. Test matches are something I was looking forward to for a long time and it will be nice to go out there and play a Test match for India.”

Rohit, who led India to victory in the Asia Cup recently before the T20 series triumph over the West Indies, said the secret of his captaincy success was to keep things simple. “Every game is a new game. Every time I go out there in the middle, I keep things simple. This game is simple and you need to keep it simple,” he said. Rohit praised newcomer Krunal Pandya and said India will benefit immensely from fearless cricketers like him.

“Krunal is a street-smart cricketer who is never afraid of any doing stuff on the field. I am impressed with how he approached these three games. He has got great ability to play for India for a long period of time. “He is fearless like his brother (Hardik). At the end of the day we need characters in the team. You need players like Hardik, Krunal who are not afraid to express themselves,” he said.

Asked about the absence of legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps during the T20 series, Rohit said: “MS (Dhoni) was not part of the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka also. “MS not being in any team is a big miss. His presence in the team itself is a huge boost for a lot of the players, not just me, especially the younger players.”

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