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Optimistic Ajinkya Rahane says Rajasthan can still qualify for play-offs



Kolkata: Their fate hanging by a thread, Rajasthan Royals captain Ajinkya Rahane believes his side still can qualify for the play-offs even after a bitter six-wicket defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League.

After a great start by Jos Buttler and Rahul Tripathi, Rajasthan were bundled out for 142, which was chased down by KKR in 18 overs on Tuesday night in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata.

Rajasthan are lying fourth in the standings with 12 points from 13 games and will now face a virtual shoot-out on May 19 against a resurgent Royal Challengers Bangalore, who are also in contention in a dogfight with three other teams for the two available play-off berths.

“We still have to believe in ourselves. Anything can happen in cricket, it’s a funny game. We have to learn from our mistakes. We were too positive with our batting tonight. But, we have to learn as a team,” Rahane said at the post-match news conference on Tuesday night.

Rahane admitted that they have not batted well this season as they should have posted something around 175-180 yesterday, especially after the magnificent start provided by Buttler and Tripathi.

“After the magnificent start given by Rahul Tripathi and Jos Buttler, we did not string any partnerships. It’s not about any individual. We lost because we did not apply ourselves in the middle and we needed to get a partnership going. When you get a start like that you have to back yourself,” he said.

“We lost because of our batting. Even in the tournament we did not bat that well except for Buttler whose consistency was good to see. So many things the boys can learn from him. We thought 175-180 was a par score on this wicket.”

Their task has become all the more difficult as their English duo of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler played their last match of the season last night. They will head back to their country for a Test series against Pakistan.

But Rahane said Rajasthan have good overseas players to replace the Englishmen.

“Definitely, we will miss Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler. I am really happy for Jos. Because, as a player, it’s everyone’s dream to represent their country in the longer format. We have got 3-4 overseas players with us, they are equally good.

“I’m sure the boys, especially the overseas players, will step up in the last league game against RCB,” he said.


India opens medal count at Asiad with bronze in rifle mixed team





Palembang | India opened its account in the 18th Asian Games with a bronze medal after Apurvi Chandela and Ravi Kumar cracked under pressure to finish third in the rifle mixed team shooting event here today.

The Indians aggregated 429.9 after 42 shots in the 48-shot final and were in second spot for major part of the 48-shot finals before China overtook them to take the silver.

The strong Chinese pairing of Ruozhu Zhao and Haoran Yang ended with a score of 492.5. Chinese Taipei’s Yingshin Lin and Shaochuan Lu claimed the gold, scoring 494.1. Korea and Mongolia finished fourth and fifth respectively in the event held for the first time at the Games.

It was a maiden Asian Games medal for Chandela, who will be aiming for a better colour medal in the 10m air rifle. Chandela is also a multiple time World Cup winner and had bagged gold at 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

World Cup bronze medallist Kumar, who is mentored by the great Abhinav Bindra, had won a men’s 10m rifle team bronze at last the edition at Incheon. Chandela, having won the first Games medal for the country, was satisfied with her performance.

“Our best finish together was fourth at the World Cup and we have improved on that. My first Asian Games medal and my first medal for India here. I am really happy about that but my focus is on main event (10m rifle) tomorrow,” Chandela told PTI. Asked about slipping to third from second in the elimination stage, Chandela added: “This happens in shooting. I think we shot alright.”

Kumar said, “This bronze has come only because of apurvi. The final was a disappointment after a decent qualification. We didnt get enough time to train together.”

After the first series, India were second with 102.9 while Korea led with 103.4. Indian remained in that position even after the third series but the Chinese improved drastically to steal the second spot.  Mongolia were the first to be eliminated, followed by Korea.

Earlier, Kumar and Chandela had finished second in the qualification with a total score of 835.3. Both shooters fired 40 shots each in the 50-minute session. South Korean pair of Hyeonjun Kim and Eunhea Jund had topped the session with 836.7. Mongolia were third with 832.1, China fourth with 831.1 and Taipei sealed the fifth and final qualification spot with 829.8.

There was disappointment in store for pistol mixed team of teen sensation Manu Bhaker and Abhishek Verma, who failed to qualify for the finals after being tied with Kazakhstan.

Both teams were tied at 759 points after 80 shots but the Kazakh sealed the fifth and final qualifying spot with more inners 10s than India (25 to India’s 14).

“Manu did not shoot to her potential. She was angry and agitated towards the end. She needs to work on controlling her anger. Abhishek needs to learn how to cope up with pressure in big events. It is new for him. They both will learn,” said pistol coach Jaspal Rana.

Bhaker had raised expectations after becoming the youngest Indian women to win a gold at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. The 16-year-old had also won two gold medals at the Guadalajara World Cup earlier this year.

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Asian Games: Sushil Kumar suffers shock defeat in wrestling




Sushil Kumar

Jakarta | In a major upset, two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar was today stunned by Bahrain’s Adam Batirov in the 74 kg category, as the Indian wrestling team’s campaign at the 18th Asian Games began on a sour note here. Sushil lost his qualification round 3-5 to Batirov.

Sushil led 2-1 after the first period with a take down but the Bahrini made a strong comeback to silence the Indian fans. The London Olympics silver medallist created two opportunities to score in the second period but could not convert while Batirov did not miss his chances. He led 3-2 with a take down and then pushed the Indian out for a win.

Sushil was not yet out of the competition and if Batirov makes the final, the Indian will be in with a chance to win bronze through repechage.

Meanwhile, Sandeep Tomar won his 1/8 round 12-8 against Turkmenistan’s Rstem Nazarov to move into the quarter-finals of the men’s 57kg freestyle event.

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We understand that players are playing for their careers, says Sanjay Bangar




Sanjay Bangar

Nottingham | Assistant coach Sanjay Bangar says India’s batsmen are under tremendous pressure and “playing for their careers” after their horror run in the first two Tests against England resulted in embarrassing defeats.

World number one India trail the five-match series 0-2, but put up a solid batting display on the first day of the third game to 307 for six at stumps.

“…The players themselves are under tremendous pressure – they are playing for their careers. We understand that,” Bangar said at the end of first day’s play.

“To make at times when things don’t really work in your favour, it is important to maintain composure, have the same sort of sense whether things are going well or not going well. Maintaining your equilibrium, that helps.”

The batsmen’s poor performances had put a question mark on the support staff, but Bangar said that such pressure only comes with the job.

“All of us understand clearly there is no magic wand we can work on any batsman. You have to understand the last five Test matches we played abroad have been in really trying conditions except for the Centurion Test.

“Take the Johannesburg Test, which we from within the group believe was one of our best performances, not in terms of the number of runs but the victory we achieved in trying circumstances. So what we value is that Test win over any Test win we have had.

“And yes, handling pressure is part and parcel of any professional’s job and we try and do whatever we can do, the support we can give and the plans that we can strategise.”

Bangar has said that subtle changes in technique by the batsmen helped India at Trent Bridge.

Virat Kohli top-scored with a determined 97 while his deputy made 81.

“The most important thing was that opening partnership was according to our expectation. In the two Tests we were losing two or three wickets inside the first 15 overs and the middle order was walking in early in difficult conditions. Also the way they were batting was good,” said Bangar.

Together, Kohli and Rahane added 159 runs for the fourth wicket to lay a solid foundation.

“The way Shikhar (Dhawan) made the changes to his batting, the way he reduced his bat speed, the way he played the ball later, these adjustments he made in the last 6-7 days, he should get credit.

“KL Rahul, too, was playing on the back foot, and he was reacting after the ball’s movement. These changes the batsmen have made make me hopeful for the rest of the series.

“With five more innings left, if our batsmen can play in the same way, their performance graph will carry on to improve,” he added.

Dhawan and Rahul put on 60 runs, which was India’s best opening partnership outside Asia and West Indies since 2013.

“Overall I think the discipline was far, far better. The start Shikhar and Rahul gave us, that was crucial. We all know that with the Dukes ball first 10-15 overs can be crucial. Most teams if they bat well 30-35 overs and show discipline they can cash in later on,” Bangar said.

About Cheteshwar Pujara’s uncharacteristic hook shot dismissal, Bangar said, “That was a ball which had to be hit and it only goes on to show that things are only going to turn around pretty quickly for him because he is just one knock away.”

India were rescued by Kohli and Rahane. Both batsmen stuck half-centuries, but fell short of their respective hundreds to hand the advantage back to England.

“We all know the conditions were pretty harsh at Lord’s and before that the Test we lost was by a gap of 30 runs. I agree the performances of the batsmen were not to our expectations.”

Losing Hardik (Pandya) in the last ball before the end of the day’s play, or losing Pujara before lunch, on the stroke of lunch, there are areas we still look at correcting.”

Talking about Rahane’s recovery of form, he added, “Ravi coming out and saying that he is our pillar, he is still a pillar of Indian batting. That might have done a whole lot of good for his confidence. And, yes, certain adjustments even he made, which probably he can tell you better.

“His mindset was very clear. He was very positive, his feet were moving well. He was getting into good positions till the time he showed that, at times there can be a lapse in concentration which can lead to losing your wicket, which had happened in the previous Test.

It was left to Pandya and debutant Rishabh Pant to hold fort until end of play. Bangar was full of praise for the young batsman and said that he could lay the foundation of a better total with R Ashwin.

“We were all very surprised (at the six), but he is a confident cricketer. He has come through the ranks. He has played Ranji trophy, graduated in the India-A format, so his has been a gradual rise.

“He has tremendous faith in his abilities. The moment he hit a six, my mind went back to Vinod Kambli, because even he started his first-class career with a six. It requires some sort of gumption to do that. The spunk was pretty evident.”

“I really appreciate and at the same time I just love his self confidence which reflects in his batting style. If Rishabh can play like that then he can be ideal for that batting position.”

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