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Don’t think Virat wields disproportionate influence: COA chief Vinod Rai

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New Delhi: Virat Kohli’s aura in Indian cricket has grown exponentially over the past few years but contrary to popular perception, he has never wielded “disproportionate influence” when it comes to policy decisions, says Committee of Administrators (COA) chief Vinod Rai.

Rai has had first-hand experience of interacting with Kohli on policy matters and after 16 months, he has his own assessment of the maverick Indian skipper.

“Any captain will exercise a certain amount of influence on the team. I am in favour of allowing that flexibility and discretion to a certain degree. After all, the captain carries the cross,” Rai told PTI in an exclusive interaction during an event at Delhi Gymkhana here.

“But I will make it clear that nobody has come to me and said that Virat exercises influence, which is disproportionate to what a captain should be enjoying,” he added.

The former CAG stated that the skipper has never pressurised him on any policy matter.

“At a personal level, Virat’s behaviour with me has been absolutely proper. Virat has never pressurised me for anything. Neither the team management nor selectors have ever had any complaints about Virat,” Rai said.

The speculation over Kohli’s excessive influence in policy decisions was quite high during the resignation of Anil Kumble as chief coach. It was widely reported that it was Kohli’s pressure that forced Kumble to step down.

The three-member selection committee led by MSK Prasad with a collective playing experience of 13 Tests, at times have been put under pressure but the COA chief believes that the former wicket-keeper is not one who can be easily dominated.

“I have no first hand of knowledge that selectors have been under any pressure. I have a great amount of respect for MSK,” he replied.

Without getting into details, he spoke about how Prasad had handled a selection pressure once just after the COA had taken over.

“I know of a particular incident when there was a bit of pressure on MSK. It was during January, last year when we (COA) had just come. I was told that MSK switched off his phone and then did the selection which was purely based on merit,” he said.

“MSK can’t be cowed down and he is senior enough to tackle the star power. When he selected the team for Afghanistan Test, he was given a pool of players without Virat. Also, neither I nor Diana (Edulji) sits in selection meetings,” he added.

Rai also explained the rationale behind allowing Kohli to play county cricket for Surrey at the expense of Afghanistan Test.

“I was involved in the decision-making right from the start. There was a lot of criticism that the team didn’t have enough time to acclimatise during the South Africa tour where we lost the Test series 1-2.

“This time we discussed with team management, with India A coach Rahul Dravid and chalked an elaborate plan so that our boys reach their early and get to play matches in order to get ready. Also, the Afghanistan CEO (Shafiq Stanikzai) made a statesmanlike statement that they are playing India and not Virat Kohli,” he added.

Rai also made it clear that the decision of not playing ‘pink ball cricket’ was taken only after consulting the “primary stakeholders” — which is the players — and insisted that knowing their “mindset” is necessary.

“The whole world plays matches to win. Maybe 50 years back, Indian team used to play Test matches for a draw. We have a fantastic team and they want to focus on whatever is the immediate objective (win Test series in England and Australia, 2019 WC in England).”

Rai also said that Team Director Ravi Shastri had provided the COA with the players’ feedback having spoken to the skipper and some other senior players.

“On April 12, Ravi (Shastri) had met us for a debriefing and he told us, ‘Look the team is focussed on something else (with a year left for World Cup). The team is not ready to start practising with the pink ball yet’.

“When we asked Ravi, has he spoken to senior players, he replied that he has indeed taken feedback from Virat and Rohit (limited overs vice-captain).”

While Shastri’s e-mailed response when acting secretary Amitabh Chaudhary had first discussed the idea was that there is no harm in “experimenting”.

“When Ravi was asked about his response he said ‘let’s experiment’ and that doesn’t mean playing any match with international teams. We have been experimenting in Duleep Trophy and it will continue.”

Questioned whether India will play a ‘pink ball Test’ in the 2019-20 home series, Rai replied: “I am not making a commitment. It requires a long-term planning and I leave it to GM (Cricket Operations) Saba Karim.”

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India’s Suraj Panwar wins silver in men’s 5000m race walk at Youth Olympics

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India

Buenos Aires | India’s Suraj Panwar clinched a silver in men’s 5000m race walk event in the ongoing Youth Olympic Games to open the country’s medal account in athletics here. Panwar won the stage 2 competition by clocking 20 minutes and 35.87 seconds on Monday night but finished second overall.

In a new format, there are no finals in track and field (with the exception of 4km cross-country) in the Youth Olympics and each event is held twice, with results from both rounds counting towards the final standings.

The 17-year-old Panwar had finished second in the first stage in 20.23.30s, behind Patin Oscar of Ecuador. Oscar, who finished second in Stage 2, won the gold with timings of 20:13.69s and 20:38.17s. Panwar’s total time of 40:59.17s was over seven minutes slower than Oscar’s 40:51.86s. Puerto Rico’s Jan Moreu finished third to claim the bronze.

This is India’s first athletics medal in this edition and third overall. Arjun (men’s discus throw) and Durgesh Kumar (men’s 400m hurdles) had won a silver each in the inaugural edition in 2010.

“It’s a great feeling. I am very happy to have won a medal. I had put in a lot of hard work for the Games. It is my first medal for India,” Panwar said after winning the silver medal.  “My next target is to better my performance here and win a medal in the senior level also,” he added.

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India complete Windies rout as Umesh takes maiden 10-wicket haul

Anil Rajpurohit

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India

Hyderabad | A clinical India completed one of the most ruthless clean sweeps in recent times, demolishing a listless West Indies by 10 wickets in the second Test, inside three days, to clinch the series 2-0 on Sunday.

Umesh Yadav’s maiden 10-wicket haul (6/88 and 4/45) on a decent track was the highlight as India reached the meagre victory target of 72 in 16.1 overs, courtesy unbeaten partnership between openers Prithvi Shaw (33) and KL Rahul (33).

While any Test series victory is welcome, it hardly was an ideal preparation for the big away-series against Australia, starting December 4 in Adelaide.

West Indies were back to their worst despite showing signs of fight in the first innings as they couldn’t last two full sessions and were bowled out for 127 in only 46.1 in their second innings.

Out of the four innings in this series, West Indies couldn’t cross the 200-run mark thrice which was a testimony to their plight during the series.

For India, it was their 10th series win at home since their last defeat against England way back in 2012.

Virat Kohli’s side did an encore of 2013 series which India won by an identical margin in that year’s most lopsided contest with Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell taking limelight.

The second innings started with Yadav on split hat-trick but Kraigg Brathwaite (0) survived one delivery before gliding one into Rishabh Pant’s gloves.

Kieran Powell (6) edged one off Ravichandran Ashwin to Ajinkya Rahane in the slips.

Shai Hope (28) hit three delightful boundaries off Umesh while Shimron Hetmeyer (17) was trying to be more assertive against spinners in their 39-run stand.

However, a rush of blood saw Hetmeyer give Kuldeep Yadav the charge only to be caught by Cheteshwar Pujara at point.

From 45 for 3, there was not much resistance as Hope was snapped when he played a Ravindra Jadeja delivery for the turn to give Rahane his second catch.

West Indies’ biggest hope Roston Chase (6) got a sharp inswinger while Shane Dowrich (0) played on with Umesh getting his ninth wicket of the match.

The wicket had its share of wear and tear but it wasn’t a difficult track where surviving would be an arduous task. Yet, it was another instance of lack of application from the West Indies batsmen with opener Brathwaite and young Hetmeyer playing atrocious shots.

Jason Holder (19) and Sunil Ambris (38) added 38 runs for the seventh wicket but once Holder edged one to Pant off Jadeja, any chances of match going to fourth day slowly disappeared.

However, West Indies had started off well by dismissing India for 367, keeping the first innings lead down to a mere 56 runs.

In the process, they denied Rishabh Pant (92) and Ajinkya Rahane (80) from reaching their hundreds.

In a space of 16.1 overs, India lost five wickets for 25 runs to move from a comfortable 314 for 4 to 339 for 9 before Ravichandran Ashwin (35, 83 balls) made a useful contribution.

West Indies captain Jason Holder (5/56 in 23 overs) used the second new ball to good effect as he completed his fifth five-wicket haul in Test cricket. Shannon Gabriel after erratic performance on Saturday came back well to take 3/107 in 20.4 overs.

Holder first got one to rear up from back of length to shatter Rahane’s dreams of a 10th Test hundred. The Indian vice-captain was caught at gully for 80 off 183 balls to give the opposition captain his third wicket. His innings had seven boundaries.

Rahane-Pant duo added 152 runs for the fifth wicket and once the visitors got the breakthrough, the floodgates open.

Pant (92), who added seven more runs to his overnight score, got a short ball from Shannon Gabriel, which he pushed at only to be caught by Shimron Hetmeyer at cover point.

In two consecutive Tests, Pant has been dismissed for identical scores of 92. This time he played 134 balls hitting 11 boundaries and two sixes.

For the record, during the West Indies second innings, the new SG Test ball had to be changed twice inside 12 overs.

On Saturday, Mohammed Siraj and Hanuma Vihari were released to play Vijay Hazare quaryer-finals for their respective teams Hyderabad and Andhra.

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#MeToo hits Indian cricket: COA seeks BCCI CEO’s response on anonymous post

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BCCI

New Delhi | The #MeToo storm hit Indian cricket on Saturday with the Committee of Administrators (COA) seeking an explanation from BCCI CEO Rahul Johri for an anonymous account of alleged sexual harassment by him that came up on social media.

The allegations by an unnamed person, who claimed to be an ex-colleague of Johri at the Discovery Channel, were posted on Twitter by an author, Harnidh Kaur, who later stated that she did not want the charges published nor her name used in the context. Johri, who has so far not reacted to the charge, worked in various positions with the Discovery channel from 2001 to 2016 before taking over as the BCCI CEO.

“…had emails sent about a BUNCH of head honchos in media. survivor has asked to not put out all the names. Rahul Johari, your #timesup #metoo,” read the tweet by Kaur which was accompanied by screenshots, detailing the alleged incident. Responding to the post, the Supreme Court-appointed COA sought an explanation from Johri without specifying any timeline for its course of action.

“The reports disclose allegations of sexual harassment made against Mr. Johri, by an unnamed person through a twitter handle. The allegations also relate to his previous employment with a large media house,” said the COA statement

“Though the said allegations do not pertain to his employment with the BCCI, the Committee of Administrators of the BCCI has deemed it appropriate to seek an explanation from Mr Johri in relation to the allegations. “He has been asked to submit his explanation within a week. The future course of action will be considered on receipt of his explanation,” it added. Kaur later tweeted that she did not want any of the incidents that she detailed on her Twitter timeline to be published.

“ALL press. Do NOT quote/mention/link my tweets, name me, or take screenshots for publication. The survivor wants her privacy respected. So do I. If you mention us now it will be in violation of this very specific request, she tweeted.

Johri is scheduled to be the BCCI’s representative at the ICC’s Chief Executive Committee meeting between October 17 and 18 in Singapore and the COA said it won’t stop him from attending. “We have not taken away functional powers till he submits his explanation and the legal team analyses it,” COA chief Vinod Rai told PTI.

ESPNCricinfo reported that allegations of sexual misconduct against Johri were brought to the BCCI’s notice in 2017 as well. But Johri denied the charge at the time, calling it a lie, an assertion that the Board accepted, according to the website.

Johri, believed to be in his late 40s, became the first CEO of the cricket body after its administrative structure underwent a revamp owing to the Lodha Committee recommendations. A media veteran before joining the BCCI, Johri was associated with the Discovery channel’s South Asia operations for 15 years. He has also been a member of various committees in business organisations such as the FICCI and ASSOCHAM.

The #metoo movement in India began with Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta accusing veteran actor Nana Patekar of sexual harassment. Subsequently, several public figures were accused of sexual harassment by women. The list includes journalist-turned-politician M J Akbar and filmmaker Sajid Khan among others.

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