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Rishab Pant earns maiden call-up to Indian Test team, Rohit ignored again

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Leeds | Young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant was today named in the 18-member Indian squad for the first three Tests against England, but senior batsman Rohit Sharma was once again ignored for the five-day format.

The 20-year-old Pant has been named as the specialist wicketkeeper-batsman alongside Dinesh Karthik, who had played the team’s last Test against Afghanistan in the absence of an injured Wriddhiman Saha.

Saha continues to be out nursing a thumb injury sustained during the IPL earlier this year.

Pacer Mohammad Shami, who was dropped from the one-off game against Afghanistan after failing the YoYo test, has regained full fitness and has made his way back for the five-match series starting August 1.

However, there is uncertainly over the participation of key pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the five-match series after he aggravated a “lower back condition” during the third ODI against England yesterday.

“His condition is being assessed by the BCCI medical team and a call on his inclusion in the Test squad will be made soon,” said the BCCI in a statement.

Pacer Jasprit Bumrah, who was unfit for the ODI series, will be available for selection from the second Test onwards, the statement added.

The sole fresh face in the squad is Pant, who has finally been rewarded for his domestic performances, including the IPL.

The selectors, who picked the squad here today, had the option of bringing back an in-form Rohit into the side but they went for infusing young blood instead.

He averages 54.16 in 22 First-Class games with a triple century and India’s fastest hundred at that level to his name. He was only 19 when he amassed a stupendous 308 against Maharashtra in the 2016-17 season.

Adjusting to the English conditions won’t be an issue for Pant as he has already been there with the A team in England for a month.

He had made an unbeaten 67 off 71 in the second unofficial Test against West Indies A at Taunton last week, helping his team pull off a five-wicket victory and the series win.

The hard-hitting left-hander, who has played four T20 Internationals, is currently playing the one-off unofficial Test against England Lions at Worcester.

The other three members of the Test squad — opener Murali Vijay, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and Karun Nair — are also part of the India A side playing in Worcester.

Nair has managed to retain his place in the team and so has Shardul Thakur, who both did not make the playing eleven in the Afghanistan Test.

Though skipper Virat Kohli had hinted a possible change in the spin department, the selectors have acted on expected lines by picking Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav, who produced some outstanding spells in the preceding T20 and ODI series against England.

Given Kuldeep’s recent success, it will be interesting to see who gets the nod in the playing eleven.

Besides Shami, Bumrah and Shardul; Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav are the other pacers in the squad.

There is no major surprise in the batting department other than Rohit’s exclusion. The opener, who was dropped after playing the first two Tests against South Africa, was earlier not named in the squad for the one-off game against Afghanistan.

However, he has been in fine form on the UK tour so far and scored consecutive hundreds in the series-deciding T20 against England and the following ODI series opener.

The selection committee also named the Board President XI team that is scheduled to play a three-day warm-up game against South Africa ‘A’ in Belgaum from July 30. This team would be led by wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan.

The Squads:

India’s squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Karun Nair, Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Mohd. Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur.

BP XI for warm-up fixture against South Africa A’: Ishan Kishan (C & WK), RR Sanjay, AR Eshwaran, Dhruv Shorey, Anmolpreet Singh, Ricky Bhui, Jalaj Saxena, Siddhesh Lad, Mihir Hirwani, DA Jadeja, Avesh Khan, Shivam Mavi, Ishaan Porel, Atith Seth.

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Ranji Trophy: Jharkhand score thrilling 2-run win over Odisha

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Ranchi | Jharkhand bowlers held their nerves as they guided their team to a nail-biting 2-run win over Odisha in the Elite Group C Ranji Trophy game here Sunday.

Subransu Senapati played a valiant unbeaten knock of 157 off 321 balls for the visitors, farming the strike beautifully in the company of the last two batsmen, but failed to take his team past the finishing line.

Chasing a stiff target of 260, Odisha were reeling at 8-154 when Senapati stitched two crucial partnerships with number 10 Basant Mohanty (4 off 38 balls) and number 11 Dhiraj Singh (7 off 43 balls) to take his side on the cusp of a memorable win.

But experienced pacer Varun Aaron (2-57) cleaned up Dhiraj Singh to dash off Odisha’s hopes as Jharkhand registered a heart-stopping win after conceding the first innings lead at the JSCA International Stadium.

For the hosts, Anukul Roy (4-51) was the main wicket- taker who was ably supported by Aaron, Rahul Shukla (2-43), Ashish Kumar (1-36) and Rahul Prasad (1-64). Senapati held the fort from one end but fell short of partners. But he was adjourned as the Man of the Match.

The close match brought back memories of the unforgettable 1991-92 final at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai when Kapil Dev’s Haryana managed victory by a similar margin against Mumbai to lift the Ranji Trophy.

Meanwhile, at Agartala, Haryana clinched six points as they defeated hosts Tripura by 55 runs. At Porvorim, the Goa versus Services match ended in a tame draw with the hosts grabbing 3 points on the basis of their first innings lead.

Brief scores:At Ranchi:Jharkhand 172 and 288 (Saurabh Tiwari 132; Rajesh Mohanty 4-87) beat Odisha 201 and 257 (Subransu Senapati 157 not out; Anukul Roy 4-51, Rahul Shukla 2-43)by 2 runs. Jharkhand 6 points, Odisha 0 points.

At Agartala: Haryana 292 and 119 (H J Rana 64; A S Sarkar 3-15) beat Tripura 250 and 106 (Pratyush Singh 23; A R Rana 4-37, Tinu Kundu 3-19) by 55 runs.

Haryana 6 points , Tripura 0 points. At Porvorim: Services 184 and 332 (Rahul Singh Gahlaut 111, Rajat Paliwal 94; Amit Verma 5-39) drew with Goa 259 and 67/2 (Amit Verma 23 not out). Goa 3 points, Services 1 point.

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Yes, I made enemies but I slept in peace: Gautam Gambhir

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Gautam Gambhir

New Delhi | Gautam Gambhir has always been a non-conformist but he has had no regrets even if it meant an “unfulfilled career”, “lot of enemies” because he could “sleep peacefully at night”. One of the most gutsy cricketers that the country has ever produced, Gambhir feels that the Indian society in general does not warm up to people who are forthright in their views.

“It’s not only about cricketing system, in general our society doesn’t like to be shown the mirror. We like to maintain the status quo and not look at the reality. I get suffocated by all this,” Gambhir, who is set to retire from competitive cricket after Sunday told PTI in an exclusive interview.

Whether it’s selectors or DDCA administration, Gambhir stood for whatever he felt right especially if those were cricketing issues. “I can’t tolerate wrong things and artificiality. A lot of people around me say that I could have been diplomatic but that is simply not me. Yes, I made many enemies but I slept in peace,” said Gambhir on the penultimate day of his competitive career.

He had an ugly altercation with KP Bhaskar in 2017 when he alleged that the former coach was trying to destroy career of junior players, had arguments with Chetan Chauhan over a rookie bowler called Navdeep Saini, who he thought was cut out for higher level. Not to forget when he was mad at a state selector, who wanted to get a below par club cricketer in the Delhi Ranji side after the team had won three straight Ranji games.

Did he never get scared that taking on establishment at every step could have affected his career?  For someone, who has always been high on emotional quotient, Gambhir did let his guard down for once. “It did affect me. I am human after all but then like I said, I could not have let the unfair (practices) prevail.

“Look, I am not being holier than thou but some of the things that go on in our system are absolutely ridiculous. I was vocal about them and I paid the price by having an unfulfilled career,” Gambhir said with a tinge of emotion in his voice. So is Gautam Gambhir a misunderstood man? He replied: “Misunderstood a lot of times. For example, if I said, a captain is as good as his team, media and critics thought I was taking a dig at MS Dhoni.

“These critics would conveniently ignore when I repeated the statement when I was leading KKR or Delhi Ranji team. All these misunderstandings played a negative part in my career,” he admitted. Son of a wealthy businessman, Gambhir said that the hunger to carve his own identity always urged him to push the limits.

“A lot of people would say that I didn’t need to play the game as I came from an affluent background. But I wanted to have an identity of my own, I wanted my dad should be known through me rather than the other way round. “Besides, I didn’t get anything on a platter, as I had to fight at each and every step. Therefore I am up for a scrap each time someone throws a challenge at me,” the fighter in him comes out.

With 8.63 million followers on twitter, Gambhir’s strong and opinionated views on many political issues have got him mixed reactions. He has recently criticised the Delhi government for not being able to curb the menace of air pollution in the national capital.

Ask him what made him take on prominent politicians or a political party on social media, the highest scorer in two World Cup finals would tell you that he does nothing with any prior “planning”. “I am not taking anyone (on) or I am not doing it with any planning. It just comes naturally to me. I want to raise issues rather than get personal. I think it is my right to question if things are not falling in place. I would urge each Indian to do it, otherwise we will be steamrolled by the system,” Gambhir replied.

There are talks that Gambhir will make for a tough no-nonsense BCCI administrator but the left-hander doesn’t want to entertain those thoughts at the moment. “It is too early to say. I want to bring about a change but at what platform it is still undecided. Lets see what happens.”

He is retiring in the midst of the season despite scoring a hundred in his final appearance. “Well, there is never a right time or a wrong time for decisions such as retirement. I have been thinking about it for sometime but enthusiasm and eagerness to win got the better of retirement thoughts.”

His shoulder niggle also hastened the retirement. “I wanted to captain and play for the entire season but due to my shoulder niggles I thought I should re-look at that plan. I discussed with my family and they were also of the opinion that I should move on”.

“In fact, it is good as so many youngsters are also coming through. At least they will get a look in now to play for Delhi,” said the 37-year-old. By his own admission, he was never destiny’s favourite child and could have played lot more (for India).

“Well, destiny has been mixed to me. I think I was good enough to play a lot more but variables were not in favour. But then I also had the honour of winning not one but two World Cup titles. So, the hundred in my last game is one more day when destiny has been kind to me.

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India slightly ahead despite K L Rahul’s dismissal, lead by 101 runs

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Adelaide | India extended their lead to 101 runs even as K L Rahul got out after doing all the hard work in the opening Test against Australia here Saturday. Josh Hazlewood dismissed Rahul (44) before tea on he third day as India reached 86 for two in 29 overs. At the break, Cheteshwar Pujara was unbeaten on 11 runs, while Virat Kohli was on 2.

Rain further caused delays post lunch and another 23 minutes were lost before play could finally get underway, with 61 overs remaining for the day. As opposed to the first innings, Rahul and Murali Vijay (18) were more careful and negotiated the Australian pace battery without much discomfort. They left well and looked to cut out any high-risk shots as India were placed at 19 for no loss in 10 overs.

Suddenly, Rahul cut loose and smacked Pat Cummins (0-22) all over the park as the score sped to 35 for no loss in the next two overs. His attacking display gave India the impetus as 50 came up in the 15th over. Vijay was the first to go, out driving again, and caught at second slip off Hazelwood. It fizzled out the Indian momentum, even as Rahul continued playing his shots.

Pujara survived a scare in the 24th over, using DRS to overturn a caught-behind decision off Nathan Lyon (0-24). But two balls later, Australia’s desperation for a wicket paid off as Rahul edged behind off Hazlewood. Kohli walked out to boos from the Australian fans but made sure there was no further loss until tea as India’s lead crossed 100. Earlier, rain hampered play as India took a 15-run lead in the first innings after Australia were bowled out for 235 in reply to the visitors’ 250.

Inclement weather first delayed play by 45 minutes in the morning session, and then there were two more delays in the first session before lunch was taken. During the first 20 minutes of play, starting from overnight 191 for seven, Australia crossed 200 in the 91st over but India managed to sneak in a breakthrough before rain came again. Mitchell Starc (15) was caught behind off Jasprit Bumrah (3-47) as covers came on. Play was held up for 55 minutes thereafter, and the number of overs for the day were reduced to 79. On resumption, the remaining one-hour session was cut short again after 40 minutes but this time India made good used of the overs.

Both Bumrah and Ishant Sharma (2-47) were guilty of bowling shorter to the tail-enders, and it didn’t change this morning either. Nathan Lyon (24 not out) made good use of this, hitting two fours and a six, as he put on 31 runs for the ninth wicket with Travis Head (72). Head’s immaculate knock came to an end when he edged Mohammed Shami (2-58) behind, and the very next ball, the pacer finished things off with Josh Hazlewood out caught similarly for a first-ball duck.

Wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant finished with six catches, while Head faced 167 deliveries in all, inclusive of six fours. Australia were happier of the two sides having added 44 runs in just 10.4 overs of play. In their bid to get the lower order out quickly, India were guilty of leaking easy runs. On day one, Cheteshwar Pujara’s 16th Test century saved India the blushes. The Indian bowling then attack worked hard to restrict Australia with Head the only one to cross the 50-mark.

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