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AIBA Women’s World Championships: ‘Magnificent Mary’ in quarters, Sarita bows out

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Mary Kom

New Delhi | Five-time champion M C Mary Kom punched her way into the 48kg quarterfinals while another veteran Sarita Devi made an early exit after losing a hard-fought 60kg bout in the AIBA Women’s World Championships here on Sunday.

Chasing a historic sixth gold and first medal since 2010, the 35-year-old Mary Kom registered a convincing 5-0 win over Aigerim Kessenayeva of Kazakhstan in her opening bout of the tournament.

The 36-year-old Sarita, who won a gold in the 2006 edition when it was also held in the Capital city, lost to 2016 World Champonships silver medallist Kellie Harrington of Ireland in a split 3-2 verdict. Sarita, who got a standing count against her opponent in the third round, later said the decision was wrong. She, however, said that she will accept the decision as she does not want another ban.  The Manipuri was handed a one year ban by the world body AIBA for refusing to accept her bronze medal in protest during the victory ceremony at the 2014 Asian Games.

Besides Mary Kom, three other Indians — Manisha Moun (54kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) and Kachari Bhagyabati (81kg) — also made it to the quarterfinals with 5-0, 5-0 and 4-1 wins on points in their respective pre-quarterfinal bouts.  Five Indians took the field on Sunday and only Sarita lost her bout. They are now just one step away from clinching a medal.

Mary Kom began with a watchful approach in the first round but she got to her rhythm with a left-right combination on her opponent in the second round. There were no many clear punches from both sides but the Manipuri, a mother of three, was clearly the better boxer with all the five judges giving their nod. Four judges gave 30-27 each while one awarded 29-28 in favour of the Indian.

“It was a tough fight and there was a bit of pressure as it was my first bout of the tournament. I have been handling the pressure of expectation from the people of my country for the last 16 years and I am happy to face this pressure,” said the Olympic bronze medallist. Mary Kom next face Wu Yu of China in the quarterfinal on Tuesday. “I think she is an intelligent boxer and fast also. I have to think about which technique I have to use,” she said.

A win on Teusday will assure Mary Kom of at least a bronze medal which will be her first since 2010. Sarita and Harrington traded a lot of punches in their lightweight pre-quarterfinal bout which was a fast and intense affair. The veteran Indian, who also competed in the inaugural World Championships in 2001, expressed surprise when the Irishwoman was declared the winner.

“I am not happy with the decision (of the judges). The decision has gone ‘ulta’ (opposite), I thought I had the upperhand in all the three rounds. But what do I do, I was banned for one year after the 2014 Asian Games controversy. So, I cannot say anything now,” she said after her bout. “I don’t know why these things happen to me only.”

About the standing count against her in the third round, she said, “It was not a standing count. My opponent was a southpaw and her legs got entangled in between mine and I slipped and fell.” The day began on a happy note for India with Manisha sending reigning world champion Dina Zhalaman of Kazakhstan packing with yet another authoritative win in 54kg to place herself just a step away from grabbing a maiden medal.

The 20-year-old Manisha won a 5-0 unanimous verdict against her more experienced rival in a pre-quarterfinal bout in her maiden World Championships. This was the second win of the Haryana girl against Zhalaman as she had defeated the Kazakh boxer in the Silesian Women’s Boxing championship in Poland earlier this year.

In the quarterfinals, Manisha faces top seed and 2016 World Championships silver medallist Stoyka Petrova of Bulgaria. “For me, once I am inside the ring it does not matter whether my opponent is a world champion or a silver medallist. So, my approach will be the same in my next bout also,” she said. “Today, like on my first bout, I played from a distance but I played faster and more aggressive. It was a good bout.”

Borgohain, an Asian Championships bronze medallist last year, had a tougher fight against 2014 World Championships gold medallist Atheyna Bylon od Panama. It was a physical and aggressive fight and both the boxers fell on the floor on more than one occasion. The 21-year-old Assamese next faces Scott Kaye Frances of Australia in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

For Bhagyabati, it was even tougher against a taller opponent Irina-Nicoletta Schonberger of Germany. But the Indian also turned out winner in her debut World Championships bout. She now faces Paola Jessica Caicedo of Columbia in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

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Balance that Pandya creates is crucial for team: Shikhar Dhawan

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Shikhar Dhawan

Melbourne | Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan on Thursday said suspended fast-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya is “crucial” for the team’s balance but rejected suggestions that the side was struggling for a fifth bowler in the ongoing ODI series against Australia.

India takes on Australia in the series-deciding third and final one-dayer here on Friday. There are bound to be changes to the team composition in the light of Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Siraj failing to impress in the first two matches.

Dhawan came out in support of the two young pacers, but added that the presence of an all-rounder in the side is imperative for balance. India is missing Pandya owing to the provisional suspension imposed on him for sexist comments on a TV show, condemned as “inappropriate” by skipper Virat Kohli.

“The balance that Hardik (Pandya) creates when he’s in the team is very crucial for our team,” Dhawan acknowledged in the pre-match press conference here Thursday.

“Even when Kedar (Jadhav) plays, the overs of off-spin he bowls are very beneficial for us…I would say he is our golden arm, and he always takes wickets when he comes on. So often, he’s broken a big partnership. An all-rounder in Tests and limited-overs’ cricket is equally important,” he added.

Talking about Ahmed and Siraj, Dhawan said the youngsters will mature and get better with time.

“It’s not a worry (about the bowling). They just came in. They are young blokes. We will back them. That’s how they’re going to learn when they play against a good side,” he said.

“If they go for runs, that’s where they have to lift themselves up and think more about their game and strategies. That’s how they’ll become more mature players. It’s good that they are getting chances over here,” he added.

Dhawan said the team is looking to make history by winning the first ever bilateral ODI series on Australian soil, following up on the 2-1 Test series’ win here. He felt the batting line-up, including veteran Mahendra Singh Dhoni, finding form only bodes well for their preparations ahead of the 2019 ODI World Cup.

“Winning the series will mean a lot to us. Winning both Tests and if we win tomorrow, it is going to be a big achievement for us. We are going to value it and cherish it,” he said.

“It was good to see a good team performance in the last game, especially how Dhoni performed well in both the games. We are very happy that Dhoni is getting his touchback. Because a player of his stature, gives so much of confidence to the batsmen at the other end,” he added.

He also lauded the role played by Dinesh Karthik during the successful chase in the second ODI in Adelaide.

“The good thing is we have got all fit players and very mature players, very experienced. That makes us a very strong batting unit. And of course, we have been performing very well and consistently over the past few years,” he said.

The left-hander is one of the three batsmen, along with Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu, to have not played active cricket while the Australia-India Test series was on.

Dhawan said he felt in a good rhythm on account of the T20I series and chose to take the break to work on fitness and his skills.

“I had 5-6 weeks off and I was training hard. It was good because, looking forward to the World Cup, it was a good break for me. Now I’m happy to be back in the side, playing matches and raring to go.

“I think my rhythm is there, the way I was hitting the ball. It is very important to take a break and feel fresh, which we Indian cricketers don’t get much of, so we’re not used to it,” he said.

India has a set and firing opening combination along with a perennially in-form Virat Kohli at number three. In comparison, Australian skipper Aaron Finch is struggling for runs, and his partnership with Alex Carey at the top hasn’t really clicked.

Dhawan said he bats in auto mode with Rohit Sharma since they understand each other so well.

“Batting with Rohit, it’s normal, comfortable and we both know what to do and what not to. Not much discussion is needed. We play in automatic mode and keep having fun with each other. There is a sense of calmness and peace,” he said.

The opener said the Indian team has done its homework on Finch to be able to get him out for cheap all summer.

“…we are hitting the right areas against him. We are not giving him singles or boundary options too easily. Once you create that pressure on a batsman, especially in limited-overs, he’s going to do something extra and take more risk to rotate the strike or score runs…,” he said.

Talking about Friday’s match, Dhawan said the Australian team is missing the likes of Steve Smith and David Warner, while the experience of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami is giving the Indian team an advantage at the start of their innings.

“Australia have a good all-round side, they have a well balanced side. Of course, the presence of Smith and Warner is missing in this side. They are legends of their country and big players in the cricket world,” he said.

“At the same time, Bhuvi (Kumar) is very experienced as well as Shami. That’s why in the first 10 overs, we have been dominating the game. We would like to do it the same way. So we will be on our guard,” he signed off.

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Bowling attack makes India WC favourites along side England, says Gillespie

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India

Adelaide | Former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie feels the current Indian bowling attack led by Jasprit Bumrah makes the team one of the favourites for the upcoming ICC World Cup, along side hosts England.

“I think the Indian attack is well balanced. Bumrah has been rested for obvious reason but their attack is still quite good,” Gillespie told PTI in an interview.

“Everyone offers different things, and you add Bumrah to it, so they are well placed to mount a challenge for the World Cup. I think England are the obvious favourites, but India won’t be far behind,” he insisted.

Gillespie singled out Bumrah for special praise and said the young right-arm pacer’s unorthodox action makes him a different bowler from others.

“I enjoy watching Bumrah bowl. He just ambles in but when he gets to the crease, he almost has a slingshot action. He bowls at good pace, hurries the batsmen up, and he can also change his pace a lot. He is a very fine bowler,” the 43-year-old former pacer said.

“His action does stand out. It is a braced front leg, delayed bowling arm action. It gets you to the crease quickly, and delivers that sling shot. It is what generates his pace. But you need to be strong to be able to do that. Bumrah is robust and fit to bowl long spells in Test cricket. He keeps his pace up throughout a Test and this is what makes him an exciting bowler,” Gillespie said.

India and Australia are tied at 1-1 in the ongoing three-match ODI series with the decider scheduled to be played at Melbourne on Friday.

The Australian team, which is currently going through a rebuilding phase, are eyeing its first ODI series win since January 2017 and Gillespie said it is the best for opportunity for youngsters to stake a claim in the World Cup-bound team.

“Obviously they are missing a couple key personnel from both batting and bowling perspectives. But the team will look very different in the World Cup. So it is a wonderful opportunity for these players and selectors to look at different options in pressure situations,” said the Adelaide Strikers’ coach.

“It is a great opportunity for young players to show what they can do and enjoy the moment of representing their country. It gives selectors more information when they get together to pick the World Cup squad,” Gillespie added.

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Kohli, Dhoni star in series-levelling win for India

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Adelaide | M S Dhoni pulled off a tight finish for India just like old times to silence his critics after captain Virat Kohli laid the foundation for a series-levelling six-wicket win against Australia with his 39th ODI hundred here on Tuesday.

Chase master Kohli could not take his team to the finishing line this time but Dhoni (55 off 54) and Dinesh Karthik (25 off 14) rose to the occasion with an unbeaten 57-run stand off 34 balls, taking India home with four balls to spare. Australia scored 298-8 after opting to bat.

Man of the match Kohli was dismissed in the 44th over after making 104 off 112 balls with five fours and two sixes. Dhoni, who has been coping a lot of criticism for his waning finishing skills, turned back the clock and took India past the finish line with a final over six.

The third and final ODI will be in Melbourne on Friday.

India got off to a frantic start with Shikhar Dhawan hitting five boundaries in his 28-ball 32 runs. He put on 47 runs for the opening wicket with Rohit Sharma (43).

The latter had another strong outing, adding 54 runs with Kohli for the second wicket as India crossed 100 in the 18th over. But just when things were going smoothly, he mishit a pull off Marcus Stoinis (1-46) and was caught in the deep.

Ambati Rayudu (24) then came to the crease, and while he added 59 runs with Kohli for the third wicket, it was plain obvious that the number four batsman struggled for timing.

Kohli meanwhile was in cruise mode, rotating strike and picking the odd boundary with ease, as he reached fifty in 66 balls. The star batsman stayed in the same mode as the asking rate climbed.

But it was Rayudu who tried attacking the bowling and perished instead, caught in the deep off Glenn Maxwell (1-16) in the 31st over.

Dhoni then joined Kohli, and the duo put on 82 runs for the fourth wicket, with the clever rotation of strike as India crossed 200 in the 37th over to keep pace with the asking rate.

Kohli changed gears as he hit two immaculate sixes through pure timing, and reached his hundred off 108 balls. It was his sixth ODI hundred against Australia.

The turning point came in the 44th over though, when Australia masterminded Kohli’s dismissal through some clever field placement in the deep. He holed out to Maxwell off Jhye Richardson (1-59).

Dhoni then took over and put on match-winning partnership with Karthik. In doing so, he turned back the clocks to lead India to a tense finish, and completed his second consecutive half-century in as many matches, 69th overall, off 53 balls.

The veteran’s running between the wickets, laced with two sixes as the only boundaries, finished things off in style for India.

Earlier, Shaun Marsh scored his seventh ODI hundred to take Australia to a challenging total.

Marsh arrived at the crease at 26-2 and scored 131 runs and added 94 runs off 65 balls with Glenn Maxwell (48 off 37 balls).

The hosts were unchanged from the previous game, while India brought in debutant Mohammed Siraj in place of Khaleel Ahmed.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar (4-45) and Mohammed Shami (3-58) exerted themselves on proceedings with the new ball, and didn’t let the Australian openers get away quickly.

Kumar bowled Aaron Finch (6) through the gate in the seventh over, in a near-similar replay of his dismissal in the first ODI. At the other end, Alex Carey (18) looked set once again before getting out two overs later, a top-edge off Shami’s quick bouncer caught at midwicket as Shikhar Dhawan took a skier.

It brought Marsh and Usman Khawaja (21) together, and they put on 56 runs off 65 balls. Their partnership threatened to turn the game away, but Ravindra Jadeja affected a brilliant run-out in the 19th over to dismiss Khawaja with a direct throw from backward point.

Marsh was able to manoeuvre the middle overs very well, as Mohammed Siraj (0-76) was proving expensive in every spell. The debutant sprayed the ball all over and was never able to hit a consistent line.

India were forced to bowl Kuldeep Yadav (0-66) and Jadeja (1-49) earlier in the innings than planned, and even Shami came back for a spell before the 25th over as the lack of a sixth bowling option started to show.

Australia did them a favour by losing wickets at regular intervals. Peter Handscomb (20) was stumped off Jadeja in the 28th over with MS Dhoni affecting another quick dismissal. But he had added 52 runs with Marsh for the fourth wicket carrying Australia past 100 in the 22nd over.

Marsh reached his half-century off 62 balls, and added 55 runs with Marcus Stoinis (29) for the fifth wicket.

Their partnership threatened to change the pace of scoring but Shami struck in the 37th over, an inside edge caught behind, to dismiss Stoinis.

Maxwell hit five fours and a six as Australia accelerated after reaching 200 in the 39th over. Marsh, meanwhile, had reached his hundred off 108 balls.

Siraj had a woeful day as he missed out twice on Maxwell’s wicket as the hard-hitting batsman survived on 26 and 41. First, DRS overturned an lbw decision in the 44th over with the ball going down leg, and then Rohit Sharma dropped a tough chance at extra cover in the 47th over.

Kumar returned to account for both Maxwell and Marsh in the 48th over and it dented momentum towards 300, as Australia lost a flurry of wickets.

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