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Need to talk to selectors about preparation after this Test: Ajinkya Rahane

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Ajinkya Rahane

Bengaluru | No longer a certainty in the shorter formats, India’s stand-in Test captain Ajinkya Rahane today said he will talk to the national selection committee in order to get a clearer picture about his mode of preparation for the upcoming Test series in England.

After the one-off Afghanistan Test match, Rahane has nothing to look forward to as he has been dropped from the limited-overs side which is going to UK first. The Test series against England is scheduled to start on August 1 after a limited-overs series featuring three T20 Internationals and an equal number of ODIs beginning July 3.

Asked what will he do for the next one and half months, a normally defensive Rahane let his guard down for moment. “See, I don’t know what’s going to happen after this Test match. But yeah, I will definitely have a word with the selectors,” Rahane’s indecisiveness was palpable before he again tightened his defences. While there are talks that he might play a few games for India A, there’s no official word on the matter.

“But I will start my preparation in Mumbai as I always do at the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC). I always prepare intensely before each and every series but as of now the focus on this Test match. Each and every Test counts and we need to win this one,” Rahane said.

Afghanistan might be newcomers but Rahane emphasised on the need to be “ruthless” against a Test side even if it’s making a debut on the big stage.

“We are not going to take Afghanistan lightly. They have a decent team…bowlers (are good).

“As a Test team, we cannot take anyone for granted because cricket is a funny game. We want to go out there and be ruthless. Yes, we respect them as our opponents but it’s important for us to go out there and give more than our 100. We just need to be ruthless,” Rahane said.

Like Dinesh Karthik, Rahane also didn’t want to read too much into Afghan captain Ashgar Stanikzai’s statement about the visiting spinners being superior to the Indian trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.

“Every member will like to believe that their team is good. We all know the stats but we don’t want to focus on the stats. Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep are experienced spinners. On a given day, it’s the mindset that makes a difference,” Rahane said. For Rahane, the last three days have been about tuning out of the IPL.

“We have had a couple of practice sessions in Bangalore and it was fantastic. Coming back from IPL, it’s important that we train our minds.

“Getting back to Test mode from T20 is about tuning our minds rather than focusing on skills. We are not going to take Afghanistan lightly.”

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CT will be reality check for us ahead of hockey world cup, says captain PR Sreejesh

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PR Sreejesh

Bengaluru | Indian men’s hockey team captain PR Sreejesh says the upcoming FIH Champions Trophy, which will feature all the top teams of the world, could provide a reality check ahead of the season-ending World Cup.

Having finished second best in the last edition, Indian men’s hockey team would want to go one step ahead this time, but Sreejesh is looking at the event in a different way.

The 18-member Indian team will leave for Breda, Netherlands later tonight to take part in the last edition of the Champions Trophy, to be held from June 23 to July 1.

With hosts The Netherlands, Argentina, Pakistan, Belgium and defending champions Australia in the fray, the tournament will be a litmus test for India ahead of the World Cup, to be held in Bhubaneswar later this year.

“Though right now our immediate goal is to do well in this tournament, there is no doubt the Champions Trophy will be a reality check for us to see where we stand among other top teams especially ahead of the World Cup,” said Sreejesh ahead of the team’s departure.

“It is the final edition of Champions Trophy and I am sure every team would want to make it memorable. It will be a challenging tournament with back-to-back matches and winning those three points from each game will be the only thing on our minds.”

India, who had won a historic silver medal in the previous edition in London, will begin their campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on June 23 but Sreejesh said it is just another game for them despite the hype around the high-profile encounter.

“For us, the match against Pakistan is just another game where we will be looking to win three points. In this tournament every single match is crucial if we want to see ourselves in the title round because the first two teams on top of the points table will play the final,” said the custodian Sreejesh.

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India failed to emerge as football power by not quitting Commonwealth: Book

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1950 Indian Football team

New Delhi | Parochialism has been affecting Indian football over the years but things might have been different had India left the Commonwealth in 1950 to join the soccer world full time, a new book claims.

India won the Asian Games football gold in 1951, again in 1962 and came fourth in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.

“Had soccer grabbed its chance, and Jawaharlal Nehru followed popular sentiment and left the Commonwealth, who is to say that today football, not cricket, would be the main sport of India,” UK-based sports commentator Mihir Bose says.

“Had India left the Commonwealth in 1950, making Indian cricket a world outcast, and the Indian football gone to Brazil to play in the World Cup the same year, that by itself would have made India a football nation like Saudi Arabia which does not see playing in the World Cup an impossible dream,” he argues in his book “Game Changer”.

“Had India gone to the World Cup in 1950, it would have been playing the best of world football. In the 1950s, that was not possible for India in cricket. Matching wits against the best would have been a tremendous boost for the sport,” Bose also told PTI.

“Football then was more popular than cricket, had reached more parts of the country, had links with Indian nationalism in the way cricket did not and playing in the World Cup would have boosted the game,” he adds.

He also says that football in India did not really follow the game as it was played in the rest of the world and has been “wretchedly” led.

“Cricket administrators are bad but football have been worse,” he alleges.

“Game Changer”, published by Palimpsest, is a critical take on the English Premier League and has a special chapter on Indian football titled “First Words”. The foreword is written by veteran football commentator Novy Kapadia.

“The England team may not have been a success but the Premier League is the most successful leagues in the world. It shows how English domestic football has reinvented itself in the last quarter of a century from being a league that was going nowhere and outclassed by La Liga and Serie A,” Bose says about the EPL.

He says Indian clubs need to learn from the sides in the English Premier League on how to market themselves.

“English clubs are very good at reaching out to their fan base and making their club’s name well known and reaching out beyond the football public.”

But to really develop the sport, Indian clubs need to set up academies which can nurture young players, he suggests.

“Also they need to make sure their coaches go out into remote rural areas to seek out young players who could be turned into stars. They also need to develop links with clubs in England and other European countries so their young players can come to Europe to learn about the game. Their coaches should also do the same,” Bose says.

According to him, Indian sports followers do not seem to be interested in the grass roots of the game and their focus seems to be on celebrity sports, and cricket in India has all the celebrities.

“It is not easy for football to compete with cricket. This will have to be a long process,” he says.

“FIFA thinks Indian football is a great underdeveloped story of world football. Indian football has a long, rocky road ahead but it is not an impossible one. They can learn from how the English Premier League reinvented the game,” he hopes

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Roger Federer wins 98th ATP title in Stuttgart ahead of return to No 1

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Roger Federer

Stuttgart (Germany) | Roger Federer claimed his 98th ATP title on Sunday and re-established his unrivalled superiority on the grass with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) victory over Milos Raonic in the Stuttgart Cup final.

Top-seeded Swiss beat his Canadian opponent for the 11th time in 14 meetings while winning a first Stuttgart title.

Federer, who will be chasing a ninth Wimbledon triumph next month, finally came good on the German grass on his third attempt after losing a semi-final in 2016 to Dominic Thiem and falling in the first round here a year ago to good friend Tommy Haas.

The 36-year-old will regain the world number one ranking on Monday and is playing next week as top seed in Halle.

“It’s a great comeback for me,” Federer said after completing his 78-minute win.

“I’m so happy to win this tournament in my third attempt. We’ll see if being number one again will probably give me a boost.” Federer made a return to the top ATP ranking for a sixth time through his semi-final victory on Saturday over Australian Nick Kyrgios.

He takes the honour back form Rafael Nadal for the second time this season and continues the duel on court between the two modern icons.

Federer kept tight control on the match as he claimed his third title of the season after the Australian Open and Rotterdam and now owns 28 grass trophies including eight from Wimbledon.

“I think I played very well not having played for a while,” Federer said as he competed this week for the first time since mid-March after skipping the clay season.

“Maybe I was a bit better on the big points.” The Swiss broke twice in the first set to earn it after 32 minutes when his opponent returned long over the baseline.

The second set stayed on serve into the tiebreaker.

A double-fault from the Canadian followed by a return winner from the Swiss set up three match points, with Federer needing only his first as Raonic netted a return.

Federer improved to 21-2 on the season after playing in the 24th grass final of his career.

The 35th-ranked Raonic, a victim of various injuries over recent seasons, was playing a final for the first time in his last 16 tournaments dating to Istanbul last year.

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