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‘Mother’ Mary does it again, wins historic sixth World Championships title

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Mary Kom

New Delhi | India’s MC Mary Kom won a historic sixth gold in the World Championships here Saturday, the mother-of-three doing, without breaking a sweat, what no other woman boxer has done or known before.

Moments after Mary Kom became the most successful boxer in the history of women’s world championships by beating Ukraine’s Hanna Okhota in an unanimous 5-0 verdict in the 48kg category summit bout, young Sonia Chahal settled for a silver medal after losing her final. India finished third in the overall standings behind China and Taipei.

The Olympic bronze medallist came into the all-important bout, which coincided with her 36th birthday, optimistic of adding to her five world championships titles, and, without an iota of doubt, she walked the talk against Okhota in front of a packed K D Jhadav Stadium.

The feisty Manipuri now has an incredible six gold and one silver in the showpiece, the last yellow metal coming in 2010 in Bridgetown. The results read 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27, 30-27 in favour of Mary Kom who had beaten the opponent in a tournament in Poland this year. Before this World Championships, Mary Kom was tied with Ireland’s Katie Taylor (five gold and a bronze) on the number of medals won by a woman.

With this, ‘Magnificent Mary’ also matched Cuban legend Felix Savon as the joint most successful pugilist (men and women) in the Championships history.

The feisty Manipuri, a mother of three children, won a silver in the inaugural edition in 2001 and then went on to win a gold each in the next five editions — 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Overwhelmed, Mary Kom broke down after coming out of the ring as she went around to greet the packed crowd and the assembled officials. Wrapped in the tri-colour, she thanked her fans for their “unstinted” support.

“I am a little bit emotional today. There is no (48kg) weight category in the Olympic Games. Because of your love and support, I feel I will be able to qualify for 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Four years ago, I was not able to qualify for Rio. I am still suffering from that,” she said.

India ended the championships with 1 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze — from Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) and Simranjit Kaur (64kg). India’s best performance ever was the eight medals, including four gold, it won in 2006 in New Delhi.

“Thank you for your love and support. I don’t have anything to give except for a gold in the country. I know it will be a bit difficult for me to win a gold in Tokyo as I will have to fight in 51kg.

“Because of their reach, the taller boxers (who will be in 51kg) will have advantage. But I am still dreaming about winning the gold in 2020 Olympics.”  She thanked the coaches who taught her throughout and the current Indian support staff. “I dedicate this gold to the nation and my countrymen.”

A packed crowd waited for Mary Kom to come out in the first final of the day. The Indian straightaway went into the ring and had her small prayer in the blue corner.

It was a watchful start for both the boxers and the Ukrainian, much younger to the Indian, showed attacking intent and kept coming on Mary Kom. The wily Indian soon began to take control. She stepped back and pounced on her opponent to land some clear punches. The first round clearly belonged to Mary Kom and all the judges gave points in her favour.

The second round was the most closely contested one with Mary Kom going for more attack. Okhota was able to land a few strikes on the Indian. This round also went in favour of Mary Kom, with three judges favouring her and two going for Okhota.

The third round was dominated by Mary as she landed some telling blows on Okhota — a right-handed jab, left-hand combination which rattled the Ukrainian. The crowd went berserk and when the result was announced, the noise reached its crescendo, and Mary Kom bowed to acknowledge.

The other Indian finalist, 21-year-old Sonia lost to Wahner Ornella Gabriele of Germany in the 57kg final in a split 4-1 decision to settle for a silver in her debut World Championships.

Sonia, a rookie boxer who began competing at the senior level only since 2016, won the closely-contested first round but from there went downhill with her German opponent getting the upper hand to win 29-28, 29-28, 28-29, 29-28, 29-28.

The German landed a lot of punches on Sonia in the second and the Indian appeared to be trying to just play out the bout.

“I did my best but it was not enough. My opponent was better on the day. I am happy to have won a silver in my first World Championships,” she said. “I will analyse my weaknesses and work hard for the 2020 Olympics.”

Hailing from Bhiwani district in Haryana, Sonia began her career in 2011 when she was 14 and rose through the ranks by competing at the school and sub-junior levels. She first won a senior level medal in 2016.

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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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