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Kevin Pietersen backs for D/N format to save Test cricket

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Kevin Pietersen

Bengaluru | India is still not comfortable with the idea of playing day-night Tests, but former England captain Kevin Pietersen today made a strong statement when he said that pink ball matches is the only way forward to save the game’s traditional format.

The first-ever foreign cricketer to address the prestigious MAK Pataudi Lecture, Pietersen couldn’t have possibly chosen a more appropriate platform to make a case for day-night cricket, especially at a time when T20 is threatening to usurp all other formats.

“If we wish cricketers to commit to five-day cricket we have to pay them. So how do we pay them? Simply by throwing the same commercial nouse and innovation at the Test game. Five days of action. They provide so many opportunities.

“Day night games have demonstrated the enormous leaps that are possible. The IPL doesn’t play its biggest fixtures when many of its staunchest, wealthiest fans are at work. Neither should Test cricket,” Pietersen said in his address.

Pietersen stated that marketing Test cricket is the need of the hour for the custodians of the game.

“It will only be by pushing the marketing dial to a maximum that we will see if the Test game has true potential. Let’s make every game count. Push the profile of the world Test championship. Develop marketing opportunities. Offer cheaper seats in the ground to provide a better spectacle for TV viewers,” he said.

“We need to get them back through the turnstiles. It’s better for the players the sponsors and television. Let’s get the fans back! Let’s throw equal marketing clout behind the Test game before we succumb to the lazy assumption that 20-20 rules.”

Pietersen said entertainment value of Test cricket needs to be increased.

“I say, let’s create a fair comparison. Let’s not compromise entertainment. Let’s put the Test fans first. Let’s make Test cricket a spectacle. Garnish it with colour and fireworks. Fill the grounds. Play in the evenings. Give the umpires microphones to broadcast to the spectators. Allow sledging — as long as it remains the right side of the line. Communicate better with the fans,” he said.

Pietersen himself has plied his trade across the globe in various T20 leagues but the Englishman remains a staunch supporter of the five-day format.

“In my humble opinion, a hard-fought five-day Test match remains the greatest all-around challenge in modern day sport. A challenge as mentally demanding as it is physical. A challenge demanding the very highest levels of concentration of technique, of determination, of stamina, all, for the batsman at least, with no second chances,” he said.

“Because, having played every form of cricket in every corner of the cricketing globe, I remain 100% convinced that the five-day Test remains the supreme form of the game,” Pietersen stressed.

Further emphasising on his point, Pietersen said T20 may be ruling the roost but it is Test cricket which eventually showcases the character of a player.

“This may surprise some of you. After all, I am not known as a traditionalist. But in 2005 I maintained that you shouldn’t judge a man by his haircut. And now, thirteen years later, I suggest you should not believe everything you read on Twitter!

“Nor, I should add, am I anything but unstinting in my praise of 20-20 cricket — particularly the wonderful IPL. 20-20 provides the thrill, the noise, the speed and no little genius. It has taken fielding to a new level and has redefined batting,” he said.

“But it offers the cricketing buzz without the full sting. Wickets are less precious. Risks are taken without the same downside. There is less character and technique required. Few players have ever been met with the wrath of an entire population simply for getting out to an injudicious shot early in a 20-20 innings!”

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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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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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