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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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Arjun should find reason to wake up every morning and chase his dreams: Sachin Tendulkar

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New Delhi | Arjun Tendulkar already knows the pressures of having a famous surname but Sachin Tendulkar wants his budding cricketer son to find “reasons to wake up every morning and chase his dreams” irrespective of the circumstances.

Arjun, a left-arm fast bowler, played two U-19 Tests for India last year and has been followed closely since the time he made his Mumbai U-19 debut. With the second edition of ‘T20 Mumbai’ set to be his first senior appearance, the legendary father knows very well that his son’s performance would be watched.

Asked if T20s are a good way to start at the senior level compared to the traditional days format, Tendulkar said it’s an opportunity that Arjun needs to grab. “In sports, nothing is guaranteed so whatever opportunities you are provided, you need to go out there and give your best and make the most of it,” Tendulkar Senior, who has refrained from commenting on his son’s journey, told PTI in an interview.

“This is one platform that I feel people will be following you, your performances and if you are doing well, you will be on top of the world,” he added.

However, if he doesn’t get success, there is always a tomorrow and Arjun can comeback stronger, feels Tendulkar. “As long as he continues to be passionate about cricket and in love with the game, that’s what matters to me. There are going to be highs and lows and he should find reasons to wake up in the morning and chase his dreams. His dream is to play cricket and do something special,” Tendulkar said.

Tendulkar’s father, famous Marathi poet and Professor Ramesh Tendulkar, had a huge impact on the legendary batsman’s thought process.  “My father once told me:’You know as long as you don’t find shortcuts and prepare yourself before any match, then results will follow’. I will ask him (Arjun) to do that. Don’t worry about anything else.

“Just go out there and do what you are good at. If he is a good team man and good human being above all, that will be much more important to me,” said the veteran of 200 Tests.

According to Tendulkar, T20 Mumbai will not only give youngsters a platform to knock on IPL doors but recognise all those unnamed club cricketers, who have remained dedicated to the sport without ever being in the spotlight.

“As far as youngsters are concerned, there are three boys, who did well in this event last year and have now got IPL teams. They are Shubham Ranjane, Shivam Dubey and Sushant Singh.So this provides a great platform to do something special and get into an IPL franchise. “If you fit into their scheme of things, they will take you. Even if not, at least you have found a way to knock their doors,” he said.

But won’t the T20 lure drive away youngsters from the traditional Ranji Trophy? Tendulkar said that there are no short cuts to the top. “It can’t be a one-way traffic. You have got to respect the sport and you will find that it takes care of you. The journey has to start from the heart and if you are passionate about cricket, it really doesn’t matter. That’s what I followed for a number of years,” he said.

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Workload management: Rohit, Zaheer tell players to ‘listen’ to their bodies

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Mumbai | Offering an advice to the World Cup-bound India players living out of their suitcase for months, opener Rohit Sharma and former pace spearhead Zaheer Khan on Tuesday said: “listen to your body”.

The suggestion came amid a debate around the workload management of players, now gearing up for a gruelling Indian Premier League, which will end barely days before the ICC showpiece begins in the United Kingdom on May 30.

“It’s going to be challenging as always. We have been on the road for last three or four years. We have played a lot of back to back cricket. It depends on individuals. You should always listen to your body,” Rohit said.

Rohit is leading the Mumbai Indians in the IPL with Zaheer being the team’s Director of cricket operations. “Yes, the World Cup is our priority. The IPL is also one of the biggest tournaments in the world. That is our priority as well. Keeping everything in mind we would take a decision collectively (on workload factor) on each individual,” the swashbuckling batsman said.

Zaheer felt that it was up to the individuals to listen to their bodies as far as workload was concerned. “I have always felt it’s an individual call. You have to listen to body and respond. I think we all recognise how important the World Cup is as a tournament and we also understand what the IPL brings to the table – match practice and intensity.

“You don’t want a lay-off for a long time for any cricketer. He needs to be in touch and dealing with pressure. That is also going to be a huge factor in the World Cup. We understand all that and steps will be taken,” the former India pacer said.

Zaheer said no player should play in the IPL thinking what could happen if he gets injured ahead of the World Cup. “There has been a lot of talk about workload. You have to trust each and every member of the World Cup squad. We don’t want them to play in the tournament thinking ‘if I give 100 per cent I may get injured and be blamed for it’. We need to take that pressure away from them.

“Playing more and more matches has always worked for me. We all need to make peace with the workload talk and the World Cup talk. We understand how important it is and, at the same, time need to create a scenario where everyone is trusting them,” Zaheer said.

Rohit added, “Some of the players that I have spoken to in the Indian team and here, like to keep in touch, they like to keep playing. They are smart, they know when they need to take a back seat and rest.

Rohit said he will open in all the games of Mumbai Indians this season, having batted at number four in a lot of games last season. “In the past, I have batted in the middle order and opened also in a few games. This year I will open the batting in all the games, that’s for sure,” said Rohit ahead of MI’s season opener here on March 24.

“Yes, the World Cup is one of the factors, but also while keeping in mind that this is where I bat for india and that’s where I have got a lot of my success of late,” he said. Rohit said he has the freedom to take the decision to bat at the top as he has an experienced match-winner like Yuvraj Singh to play the role he had played in the previous seasons.

According to the MI skipper, there is also Siddesh Lad, a consistent scorer for Mumbai in domestic cricket, to fill in the number four slot.

Zaheer felt that IPL form would count towards selection for a few slots in India’s World Cup squad. “Look at the past. Has IPL helped Indian selectors in identifying players. The answer is – yes. Has someone been picked on IPL performance – the answer is again yes. I am sure the form in IPL will matter for grabbing those available spots,” he said.

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Ponting backs Rishabh Pant to bat at No.4, Ganguly terms him ‘huge asset’

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New Delhi | Ricky Ponting on Tuesday unequivocally backed Rishabh Pant for the number four slot in India’s World Cup line-up and even saw him as one capable of winning the tournament.

Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly marked the young wicketkeeper-batsman as one for the future, calling him a “huge asset”. With little over two months to go for the World Cup and the number four batsman yet to be decided, it could now boil down to performance in the Indian Premier League, according to Ganguly.

But Ponting, a two-time World Cup winning Australian captain, left nothing to doubt when discussions turned to Pant. “The first thing I would do is pick him in that Indian squad for the World Cup, I would play him as a batter, I would play him at number four. He is the sort of guy, with that kind of talent, he can win you a World Cup, he has just got that x-factor,” Ponting said.

Ganguly added, “Anybody who wants to succeed in shorter formats of the game he has to go up, we have seen the best in world do that. If you send Rishabh at number four, he will score runs for you because he is so talented, he has got so much time to play. “In his short career he has been remarkable for India and once he starts getting opportunity consistently, he will be a top player.”

Pant had a terrific start to his Test career, becoming the first Indian wicketkeeper to score centuries in England and Australia, but there is a perception that he hasn’t showed the temperament or tasted as much success in the shorter formats.

During an interaction organised by the Delhi Capitals, Ganguly didn’t agree with the viewpoint. “Look at the way he played in the IPL last year, he got a full tournament, 14 games, and he was probably the second highest run-getter in the IPL last year.

“The problem with him in shorter formats is that he doesn’t get regular cricket because you have a champion in MS Dhoni who actually plays most of the shorter formats, so Rishabh is coming in and going out all the time and that’s never good for anybody, however quality a player you are,” Ganguly said.  Pant’s exploits with the willow has the taken the cricket world by storm in recent months.

Ganguly said, “The reason he succeeds in Test cricket is because he plays consistently. How many Indian wicketkeeper-batsmen have got Test hundreds in England and Australia, and he scored them at ease. It’s not that he struggled, it’s not that he looked out of place against fast bowling.  “For me, he is your future. For the next 10 years, you will see that boy a lot in all formats of the game and not because he plays for Delhi, he can play for anyone he wants to.”

Pant will be eyeing a successful IPL with the rechristened Delhi Capitals.  “Just the serious talent he is, he is a hard worker, I have been watching him at nets for the last four years, he is always the first one to come out and bat for longer periods. He will be huge asset to Indian cricket in the years to come,” said Ganguly.

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