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Matter of great pride to host Afghanistan team: PM Modi

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Afghanistan

New Delhi | Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said it’s a matter of great pride that Afghanistan has chosen to play its maiden Test match against India, which stands shoulder-to-shoulder in its cricketing journey.

The Afghanistan team, who have been impressive in the shorter formats, will make their Test debut at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru tomorrow.

Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore and the neighbouring country’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah will be at the venue to watch the match.

“It is a matter of great pride and immense pleasure that Afghanistan has chosen to play its maiden test match with India,” Modi said in a letter to the Afghan cricket team.

Hailing the feat achieved by the country, Modi said it had come in “challenging and difficult” circumstances.

This, he said, reflects the indomitable Afghan spirit to overcome all challenges and realise aspirations for a prosperous, stable, united and a peaceful nation.

“Today, cricket is a unifying force for the people of Afghanistan. India takes pride in being shoulder-to-shoulder with Afghanistan in this journey. It is an honour for India to host the Afghan national team at home ground in Greater Noida and Dehradun,” Modi said.

India has also been associated with the development of cricket in the country since 2001 when the latter joined the International Cricket Council.

It had also helped the country construct cricket stadiums.

Several Afghan cricket players received training and coaching from Indian coaches in their formative years.

Players like Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi have won hearts of millions of people in India through their performance in the IPL.

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Is Paes coming to Asian Games? Indian captain Zeeshan Ali has no clue

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Leander Paes

Jakarta | Miffed at not getting a “specialist” men’s doubles partner, veteran tennis star Leander Paes today pulled out of the 18th Asian Games starting on Saturday.

The 45-year-old Indian, winner of 18 Grand Slams, was asked to team up with struggling singles player Sumit Nagal after All India Tennis Association (AITA) agreed to pair country’s top doubles players Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan in the men’s doubles, on their request.

Paes was already miffed at his exclusion from TOP Scheme but had made himself available for the Asian Games, where he has won eight medals, including five gold. “It is with a heavy heart that I have to say that I will not be playing the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia,” Paes said in a statement sent to PTI.

“Despite my repeated requests, from so many weeks in advance, it is sad that we have not been able to put a doubles specialist in the team for a credible second doubles pairing for the Asian Games.”

With Sharan and Bopanna deciding to play together, captain Zeeshan Ali had no choice but to pair Paes with Nagal or Ramkumar Ramanathan.

While Ramkumar is primarily a singles player and plays doubles occasionally, Nagal is in terrible form. He has lost nine straight first round matches on the Pro circuit, coming into the Asian Games. Paes has questioned why AITA didn’t field two specialist doubles teams.

“Ramkumar Ramanathan is a very good player, and I would love to play doubles with him. But considering that he has a golden chance to win the singles medal, it is not fair to distract him from his best event,” Paes said further in the statement. Paes was to return to the Games after missing the previous two editions.

“Our doubles specialists like Sriram Balaji, Vishnu Vardhan, Purav Raja and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan have been doing exceptionally well this season and one of them definitely deserved to strengthen the Asian Games squad,” Paes said. India as of now have five players in top-100 – Bopanna (32), Sharan (38), Paes (79), Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (88) and Purav Raja (90).

The next best two players — N Sriram Balaji (112) and Vishnu Vardhan (115) were also in top-100 some weeks back. Paes, however, asserted that his absence would not adversely affect India’s chances.

“Rather than affecting the team’s chances, I believe that my absence would only help the rest to play more events, be it doubles or mixed doubles,” he said. “I have been in constant touch with Captain Zeeshan Ali and have had long discussions with him with regard to Rohan Bopanna’s injury.

“I am happy to learn that Rohan has recovered and as such a doubles medal for India is almost assured. Without his availability it wouldn’t have been fair for me to withdraw as that may have impacted a possible gold from tennis.” Recently, Paes had asked AITA for an explanation as to why he was not chosen for TOP Scheme, but did not get a positive response.

“Till date I have submitted three applications for availing of the finances sanctioned by the government to athletes who represent the country. I have always put national duty before self and am confused as to why my application for the TOPS has not been processed so far,” Paes had written to AITA. “For me, it’s not about the money. Rather it’s about the apathy being shown to me despite the three decades I have spent proudly playing for the Tiranga.”

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Kumble, Azhar remember a ‘father figure’, ‘big influence’, says Tendulkar on Ajit Wadekar’s dimise

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Ajit Wadekar

New Delhi | A beleaguered captain and a struggling leg-spinner got a new lease of life under his managership and no wonder former India captains Mohammed Azharuddin and Anil Kumble found a “father figure” in Ajit Wadekar, during their glory days in international cricket.

For Sachin Tendulkar, he was a “big influence” as maestro’s career changed once he started opening the batting in ODIs. Wadekar, 77, passed away in Mumbai yesterday after prolonged illness.

“Deeply saddened to hear about the demise of Ajit Wadekar Sir. He was someone who was instrumental in bringing out the best in us during the 90s. We’ll always be grateful for his advice and guidance. Praying for strength for his family during this difficult time,” Tendulkar wrote on his official Twitter page.

It was under Wadekar that Azharuddin, who was till then struggling captain, having lost Test series in New Zealand, England and Australia, got a second wind under him from 1993 to 1996.

“such an iconic person..deeply saddened by his demise!! Sir was a father figure for me.. May his soul rest in peace! My Heartfelt Condolences to the family,” Azharuddin wrote on his Twitter page.

For Kumble, Wadekar was Godsend after getting dropped post 1990 tour of England. His comeback coincided with Wadekar’s entry as manager during the 1992-93 tour of South Africa. He was never dropped during the next 16 years till his retirement in 2008.

“Deeply saddened by the passing away of #AjitWadekar He was more than a coach to the entire team – a father figure and a shrewd tactician. My heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. He will be missed. Thank you Sir for the confidence shown in my ability!” wrote Kumble.

For Sanjay Manjrekar, Wadekar was a “tough character” as coach. In fact, Majrekar had tweeted a video of Wadekar in cricket gears one last time during a charity match at the Shivaji Park Gymkhana in Mumbai.

“Ajit Wadekar’s impact on Indian cricket is immense. His contemporaries worshipped him, such was his aura. Found him to be a tough character as coach. Exceptional Indian cricketer… RIP Sir.”

The legendary Bishan Singh Bedi was magnanimous in his praise even though he conceded that they had differences of opinion on cricketing issues.

“V sad news-Ajit Wadekar passing away-only Indian Capt to win 3 series in a row-2 away 1 at home-ALW was good contemporary-we had differences of (sic) opinion but always respected glory of (sic) Crkt-fine batsman & great close in catch-served Indn Crkt w/aplomb as player/Selector/Coach-RIP Jeetu!”

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Former India captain Ajit Wadekar no more

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Ajit Wadekar

Mumbai | Former India cricket captain Ajit Wadekar, who led the team to path-breaking Test wins in England and the West Indies, passed away today after prolonged illness. He was 77 and is survived by his wife Rekha, two sons and a daughter.

Wadekar was brought to a hospital in South Mumbai today where he was declared dead on arrival. His last rites will be performed on Friday, a member of the Wadekar family, who did not wish to be named, told PTI.

“He had been critically unwell for sometime and was seeking treatment for the same,” read the statement from the Jaslok Hospital.

The aggressive batsman was a trailblazer in Indian cricket despite a mere 37 Test appearances, leading India to triumphs in England and the West Indies in 1971. Wadekar scored 2,113 runs in his Test career, including one hundred, and was also the country’s first ODI captain. He appeared in just two matches, though.

India lost both those ODIs against England, which prompted Wadekar to retire from international cricket in 1974. The Mumbaikar went on to serve as India’s manager in the ’90s during Mohammed Azharuddin’s captaincy. In his tenure as manager, India had finished semifinalists at the 1996 World Cup.

He later went on to become the chairman of selectors as well. Wadekar is the only cricketer apart from Lala Amarnath and Chandu Borde to have served as captain, manager, and selector in Indian cricket. But the feat that made him an icon was the Test wins in the West Indies and England.

In a side that included the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, G Viswanath, and Bishan Singh Bedi, Wadekar took over the captaincy from M A K Pataudi in 1971. And he immediately etched his name in history books with India’s Test triumphs in England and the West Indies.

Wadekar’s first-class debut was in 1958 but he could make it to the Indian team only in 1966 and went on to earn the reputation of being an aggressive number three batsman. However, he had just one Test hundred in his record — a 143-run effort in Wellington — which came in the 1968 tour of New Zealand.

The left-hander ended his Test career with 14 half centuries, four of those being 90-plus scores. He was bestowed the Arjuna Award in 1967 and India’s fourth highest civilian honour, the Padmashri, in 1972.

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