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It’s one of my top-5 Test knocks: Pujara on hundred

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Adelaide | Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara Thursday said his gritty hundred in the opening Test against Australia ranks among the top five of his 16 centuries in the longest format.

This was the second overseas hundred for Pujara this year, after his effort in Southampton against England. He also scored fighting half-centuries in the two Test wins at Johannesburg (against South Africa) and Nottingham (against England).

“It (Thursday’s knock) is one of my top innings in Test cricket, I could say top five. I can’t rate if it was one of the best but the teammates were appreciating, they were saying it was one of the best,” he said at the end of day’s play here with India at 250/9 thanks largely to his effort.  Pujara scored 246-ball 123 to pull India out of trouble in the ongoing match here.

The 30-year-old said although a majority (10) of his 16 hundreds are at home, it in no way suggests that he is more effective on Indian pitches. Only three of Pujara’s overseas hundreds have come outside the sub-continent.

“…people have always said that I have scored more runs in India. But at the same time, you also need to look at the number of matches we play in India. If we have played more number of matches in India, obviously I will score runs there,” he reasoned.

The right-hander said he has never been short of confidence while taking guard on foreign pitches.

“At times, I have had a bad phase playing overseas but I still feel very confident playing in different conditions and playing county cricket has helped me a lot.

“Playing in England, conditions are always challenging and when you come to Australia, you know that pitches are slightly better and as I said, I had decent time to prepare before the Test series,” he said.

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Playing against Pakistan in world cup is based on BCCI’s decision: Virat Kohli

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New Delhi | Indian Cricket team captain Virat Kohli today said that the decision to play against arch-rival Pakistan in the 2019 World Cup in England is entirely based on the BCCI.

Addressing a press conference ahead of the upcoming India-Australia series Kohli expressed his condolence towards the families of the CRPF martyrs who were killed in the terror attack in Pulwama. He said,” Our sincere condolences to the families of CRPF soldiers who lost their lives in Pulwama Attack. We stand by what the nation wants to do and what the BCCI decides to do. We will go by what the govt & the Board decides, we will respect that.”

 

Earlier the Committee of Administrators (CoA) running Indian cricket on Friday decided against taking any stand on the World Cup clash against Pakistan but said it would individually urge ICC members to “sever ties with any nation that is a terrorist hub”.

Addressing the reports after the meeting CoA chief Vinod Rai told reporters,”We are in talks with the government. No decision has been taken on the June 16 match.” He further added, “We are expressing two concerns to the ICC. We will ask for more protection for players during the World Cup and we will tell cricketing nations to sever ties with any nation that is a terrorist hub.”

Various former and senior  Indian players like Mohammed Azharuddin and Harbhajan Singh has demanded to boycott the match against Pakistan after Forty CRPF personnel were killed and five injured in one of the deadliest terror strikes in Jammu and Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber blew up an explosive-laden vehicle near their bus in Pulwama district. The bus was part of a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying CRPF personnel from Jammu to Srinagar.

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No IPL opening ceremony this year, CoA says allocated money will go to Pulwama martyrs’ families

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New Delhi | The IPL will not have an opening ceremony this year after the Committee of Administrators (CoA) running Indian cricket on Friday decided to allocate the money set aside for it to the families of the CRPF personnel killed in the Pulwama terror attack.

The opening ceremonies of the cash-rich T20 league are a heady mix glitz and glamour with performances by Bollywood stars being the highlight. However, as a mark of respect to the slain CRPF men, it has been decided to scrap the ceremony for the event’s 12th edition beginning March 23.

“We will not have any inaugural function for the IPL and the money budgeted for that goes to the martyrs’ families,” said Committee of Administrators chairman Vinod Rai.

The CoA took the call at a meeting here on Friday.

The Pulwama attack took place last week and its reverberations are being felt in the sporting arena as well. There has been a call to snap sporting ties with Pakistan.

The Rai-led CoA decided against taking any stand on the World Cup clash against Pakistan but said it would individually urge ICC members to “sever ties with any nation that is a terrorist hub”.

Defending champions Chennai Super Kings will take on Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL opener on March 23.

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Low expectations is great place to start from: Hanuma Vihari

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New Delhi | Hanuma Vihari has been punching above his weight ever since he made his India debut and that’s why he is ready to deal with “low expectations” in a bid to change the popular perception of not being good enough for the T20 format in the upcoming IPL.

Vihari is back in the IPL, which starts March 23, with the Delhi Capitals after going unsold at the auction for three years primarily due to an unimpressive strike rate of sub 100. “I think because of the slow strike-rate of the past, people won’t have expectations from me, which can be a great thing. I take it positively, because now I have a chance to prove them all wrong,” Vihari told PTI in an exclusive interview.

The Delhi Capitals have a star-studded top order with Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, skipper Shreyas Iyer and the indomitable Rishabh Pant in the ranks. Vihari knows it will be a fight to get into the playing XI but he is ready to don the role of a finisher the same way he agreed to open for India in unfamiliar conditions in Melbourne.

“Honestly, given that I am playing the IPL after a three-year gap, I am ready to go out there and bat anywhere the management asks me to, whether it’s at the top of the order, or in the role of a finisher. “On my part, I am really in a great mental space and a great position as far as my game is concerned. I am really well-prepared for everything right now,” the 25-year-old Andhra batsman said.

He was a part of Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2013 but a lot has changed since then. He has scored loads of runs for India A and also struck a fifty against England on his Test debut.

“I am excited, and fully ready for the season ahead with Delhi Capitals. Mainly because in these three years, I have developed so much as a player. “I am much more confident of performing now. Also, we have a great mix of Indian and foreign players. I am really looking forward to playing under Shreyas and Ricky’s (Ricky Ponting) leadership,” Vihari said.

The soft-spoken Vihari feels his India stint will make a difference as it has upped his confidence so necessary in a slam-bang tournament. “It gives me a huge boost for sure. I think things have worked out quite timely for me. The IPL opportunity could not have come to me at a better time.”

Told to open a Test innings with another rookie, Mayank Agarwal, against Australia at the MCG, Vihari managed only 8 off 66 balls.

However, what the scoreboard did not reflect was the manner in which Vihari blunted the new ball attack and gave Cheteshwar Pujara the platform to set up the victory with a dogged hundred.

“It was quite tough. At the international level, the challenge of opening the innings is totally different from domestic. The deliveries come fast, and they come high. “The openers obviously are targeted more because the opposition wants early breakthroughs. But it’s exciting as well because walking out there to bat in front of 80,000 people at the MCG is quite an unbelievable feeling. I didn’t sleep the previous night,” he said.

He is most comfortable in the middle order but won’t mind facing the red cherry at the start of an innings if asked to do so once again.

“Yes, I will do whatever is needed for the team. These are situations you face as a sportsman, and you have got to learn to accept it. Whether it’s playing for India or Delhi Capitals, I don’t want to be tagged as the guy who is not a team man. I want to be out there for our team,” Vihari said with conviction.

The best part about that MCG innings was the vote of confidence from national coach Ravi Shastri and captain Virat Kohli. “They said I did a great job. The number of runs didn’t matter. Because of the start, it made Pujara and Kohli’s job easier after that.”

The difference in confidence was evident as he toyed with the Vidarbha attack during his twin hundreds for Rest of India in the Irani Trophy. Asked if the Vidarbha attack bothered him considering he had played the likes of Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood in the preceding months?

“Well, the two challenges are different for sure. But against Vidarbha, the wicket was a challenging one. They are a quality side, and I needed to be on top of my game in terms of focus and concentration. I am happy I could score centuries in both innings.” For him, his mother is the biggest source of inspiration, who has helped him stay grounded despite all the adulation coming his way.

“My mother is still the same. She keeps telling me to remain humble and grounded. And she tells me not to settle, just because I have earned my Indian cap doesn’t mean I should stop chasing my dreams.”

He was recognised at the airports on arrival from England and Australia but the best part was coming out and finding his mother waiting to receive him. “She makes it a point to be at the airport each time I am back from a tour. And of course, prepares my favourite dishes when I am home. Anything she cooks is amazing, but her specialty is a dry fruit laddu it’s tasty and healthy.” PTI KHS

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