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Farmer’s son Akash claims India’s maiden archery silver at Youth Olympics

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Akash Malik

Buenos Aires | Akash Malik became India’s first silver-medallist in archery at the Youth Olympic Games, providing a fitting finale to the country’s best-ever campaign at the marquee event here.

The 15-year-old son of a farmer lost a one-sided final to Trenton Cowles of the USA 0-6 as India concluded with three gold, nine silver, and one bronze at the event that was launched in 2010. Seeded fifth after qualification, the Haryana-boy was inconsistent in the summit clash against the 15th seed Cowles, who only shot in 10s and 9s to wrap it up easily on Wednesday night.

In the three-setter, both the archers shot four perfect 10s, but Akash’s two wayward 6s in the first and the third set proved to be the decisive factor. The summit clash was held under windy conditions following light rains.

“I have trained in the wind, but here it was too much. I was waiting for an opportunity but he (Cowles) was stronger and I had no chance,” Akash told PTI. “I feel good but I lost the gold medal,” the 11th standard school-boy said after bettering Atul Verma’s feat of a bronze at the Nanjing edition of the Games in 2014.

Akash took up archery six years ago after Manjeet Malik, a physical-trainer-turned-archery-coach, picked him during a trial. “One day my friends took me to a field where I saw kids aiming at a target with arrows. Mujhe laga woh shikaar kar rahe hain (I thought they were hunting something),” Akash said.

Akash, who used to play cricket with his friends, developed a fascination for the ‘new-found sport’. “Mujhe laga mein kuchh kar sakta hoon (I thought I could do something),” he said. Akash’s father Narender Malik, who is into wheat and cotton farming, never wanted his son to join him at the fields.

“Initially my parents dissuaded me as they wanted me to study to land up a government job. But after I started winning medals they have started backing me fully. They must be very happy now,” Akash, who will return to India with the contingent on Sunday, said. “Now I’ve to put in more effort and hope to qualify for Tokyo Olympics,” he said about his mission 2020.

His coach Manjeet Malik said Akash’s ability to remain calm had impressed him.  “He was very calm and composed and I thought he could shoot arrows steadily. He now shoots with confidence. It was raining as well when the final started,” the coach said.

In 2014, Akash was part of the recurve boys team which won a gold medal at the mini national (under-14) archery championship in Vijayawada. Akash went on to clinch a gold medal in the Youth Olympics qualifying event last year.

He also won a gold medal at Asia Cup Stage-I, two bronze in Asia Cup Stage-II and a silver and a bronze in the South Asian championship, in the last one year. “It’s indeed a proud moment for me and all the hard work is now paying off,” Malik, who has about 80 students at his private academy, said.

Akash is currently enrolled by the Olympic Gold Quest and trains under South Korean coach Kim Hagyong at the Army Sports Institute in Pune. Making a solid start to the final, Akash started off with a 10 but then he shot a 6 in his second arrow and concluded the first set with another perfect 10.

The American, on the other hand, remained consistent with scores of 10, 9, 9 to take the first set 28-26. Stepping up his game, Cowles shot two 10s and a 9 in the second set to win it 29-27. Under pressure in the third set, Akash shot another six that ruined his chances of a gold medal. He finished with two 10s but Cowles remained steady and sealed the issue 28-26 in the third set.

Earlier, Akash finished in the last eight of the mixed international team event partnering Turkey’s Selin Satir. The duo lost in the quarter-finals to Thailand’s Aitthiwat Soithong and Argentina’s Agustina Sofia Giannasio.

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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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