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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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Farmer’s son Akash claims India’s maiden archery silver at Youth Olympics

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Akash Malik

Buenos Aires | Akash Malik became India’s first silver-medallist in archery at the Youth Olympic Games, providing a fitting finale to the country’s best-ever campaign at the marquee event here.

The 15-year-old son of a farmer lost a one-sided final to Trenton Cowles of the USA 0-6 as India concluded with three gold, nine silver, and one bronze at the event that was launched in 2010. Seeded fifth after qualification, the Haryana-boy was inconsistent in the summit clash against the 15th seed Cowles, who only shot in 10s and 9s to wrap it up easily on Wednesday night.

In the three-setter, both the archers shot four perfect 10s, but Akash’s two wayward 6s in the first and the third set proved to be the decisive factor. The summit clash was held under windy conditions following light rains.

“I have trained in the wind, but here it was too much. I was waiting for an opportunity but he (Cowles) was stronger and I had no chance,” Akash told PTI. “I feel good but I lost the gold medal,” the 11th standard school-boy said after bettering Atul Verma’s feat of a bronze at the Nanjing edition of the Games in 2014.

Akash took up archery six years ago after Manjeet Malik, a physical-trainer-turned-archery-coach, picked him during a trial. “One day my friends took me to a field where I saw kids aiming at a target with arrows. Mujhe laga woh shikaar kar rahe hain (I thought they were hunting something),” Akash said.

Akash, who used to play cricket with his friends, developed a fascination for the ‘new-found sport’. “Mujhe laga mein kuchh kar sakta hoon (I thought I could do something),” he said. Akash’s father Narender Malik, who is into wheat and cotton farming, never wanted his son to join him at the fields.

“Initially my parents dissuaded me as they wanted me to study to land up a government job. But after I started winning medals they have started backing me fully. They must be very happy now,” Akash, who will return to India with the contingent on Sunday, said. “Now I’ve to put in more effort and hope to qualify for Tokyo Olympics,” he said about his mission 2020.

His coach Manjeet Malik said Akash’s ability to remain calm had impressed him.  “He was very calm and composed and I thought he could shoot arrows steadily. He now shoots with confidence. It was raining as well when the final started,” the coach said.

In 2014, Akash was part of the recurve boys team which won a gold medal at the mini national (under-14) archery championship in Vijayawada. Akash went on to clinch a gold medal in the Youth Olympics qualifying event last year.

He also won a gold medal at Asia Cup Stage-I, two bronze in Asia Cup Stage-II and a silver and a bronze in the South Asian championship, in the last one year. “It’s indeed a proud moment for me and all the hard work is now paying off,” Malik, who has about 80 students at his private academy, said.

Akash is currently enrolled by the Olympic Gold Quest and trains under South Korean coach Kim Hagyong at the Army Sports Institute in Pune. Making a solid start to the final, Akash started off with a 10 but then he shot a 6 in his second arrow and concluded the first set with another perfect 10.

The American, on the other hand, remained consistent with scores of 10, 9, 9 to take the first set 28-26. Stepping up his game, Cowles shot two 10s and a 9 in the second set to win it 29-27. Under pressure in the third set, Akash shot another six that ruined his chances of a gold medal. He finished with two 10s but Cowles remained steady and sealed the issue 28-26 in the third set.

Earlier, Akash finished in the last eight of the mixed international team event partnering Turkey’s Selin Satir. The duo lost in the quarter-finals to Thailand’s Aitthiwat Soithong and Argentina’s Agustina Sofia Giannasio.

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India’s Suraj Panwar wins silver in men’s 5000m race walk at Youth Olympics

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Buenos Aires | India’s Suraj Panwar clinched a silver in men’s 5000m race walk event in the ongoing Youth Olympic Games to open the country’s medal account in athletics here. Panwar won the stage 2 competition by clocking 20 minutes and 35.87 seconds on Monday night but finished second overall.

In a new format, there are no finals in track and field (with the exception of 4km cross-country) in the Youth Olympics and each event is held twice, with results from both rounds counting towards the final standings.

The 17-year-old Panwar had finished second in the first stage in 20.23.30s, behind Patin Oscar of Ecuador. Oscar, who finished second in Stage 2, won the gold with timings of 20:13.69s and 20:38.17s. Panwar’s total time of 40:59.17s was over seven minutes slower than Oscar’s 40:51.86s. Puerto Rico’s Jan Moreu finished third to claim the bronze.

This is India’s first athletics medal in this edition and third overall. Arjun (men’s discus throw) and Durgesh Kumar (men’s 400m hurdles) had won a silver each in the inaugural edition in 2010.

“It’s a great feeling. I am very happy to have won a medal. I had put in a lot of hard work for the Games. It is my first medal for India,” Panwar said after winning the silver medal.  “My next target is to better my performance here and win a medal in the senior level also,” he added.

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India complete Windies rout as Umesh takes maiden 10-wicket haul

Anil Rajpurohit

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Hyderabad | A clinical India completed one of the most ruthless clean sweeps in recent times, demolishing a listless West Indies by 10 wickets in the second Test, inside three days, to clinch the series 2-0 on Sunday.

Umesh Yadav’s maiden 10-wicket haul (6/88 and 4/45) on a decent track was the highlight as India reached the meagre victory target of 72 in 16.1 overs, courtesy unbeaten partnership between openers Prithvi Shaw (33) and KL Rahul (33).

While any Test series victory is welcome, it hardly was an ideal preparation for the big away-series against Australia, starting December 4 in Adelaide.

West Indies were back to their worst despite showing signs of fight in the first innings as they couldn’t last two full sessions and were bowled out for 127 in only 46.1 in their second innings.

Out of the four innings in this series, West Indies couldn’t cross the 200-run mark thrice which was a testimony to their plight during the series.

For India, it was their 10th series win at home since their last defeat against England way back in 2012.

Virat Kohli’s side did an encore of 2013 series which India won by an identical margin in that year’s most lopsided contest with Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell taking limelight.

The second innings started with Yadav on split hat-trick but Kraigg Brathwaite (0) survived one delivery before gliding one into Rishabh Pant’s gloves.

Kieran Powell (6) edged one off Ravichandran Ashwin to Ajinkya Rahane in the slips.

Shai Hope (28) hit three delightful boundaries off Umesh while Shimron Hetmeyer (17) was trying to be more assertive against spinners in their 39-run stand.

However, a rush of blood saw Hetmeyer give Kuldeep Yadav the charge only to be caught by Cheteshwar Pujara at point.

From 45 for 3, there was not much resistance as Hope was snapped when he played a Ravindra Jadeja delivery for the turn to give Rahane his second catch.

West Indies’ biggest hope Roston Chase (6) got a sharp inswinger while Shane Dowrich (0) played on with Umesh getting his ninth wicket of the match.

The wicket had its share of wear and tear but it wasn’t a difficult track where surviving would be an arduous task. Yet, it was another instance of lack of application from the West Indies batsmen with opener Brathwaite and young Hetmeyer playing atrocious shots.

Jason Holder (19) and Sunil Ambris (38) added 38 runs for the seventh wicket but once Holder edged one to Pant off Jadeja, any chances of match going to fourth day slowly disappeared.

However, West Indies had started off well by dismissing India for 367, keeping the first innings lead down to a mere 56 runs.

In the process, they denied Rishabh Pant (92) and Ajinkya Rahane (80) from reaching their hundreds.

In a space of 16.1 overs, India lost five wickets for 25 runs to move from a comfortable 314 for 4 to 339 for 9 before Ravichandran Ashwin (35, 83 balls) made a useful contribution.

West Indies captain Jason Holder (5/56 in 23 overs) used the second new ball to good effect as he completed his fifth five-wicket haul in Test cricket. Shannon Gabriel after erratic performance on Saturday came back well to take 3/107 in 20.4 overs.

Holder first got one to rear up from back of length to shatter Rahane’s dreams of a 10th Test hundred. The Indian vice-captain was caught at gully for 80 off 183 balls to give the opposition captain his third wicket. His innings had seven boundaries.

Rahane-Pant duo added 152 runs for the fifth wicket and once the visitors got the breakthrough, the floodgates open.

Pant (92), who added seven more runs to his overnight score, got a short ball from Shannon Gabriel, which he pushed at only to be caught by Shimron Hetmeyer at cover point.

In two consecutive Tests, Pant has been dismissed for identical scores of 92. This time he played 134 balls hitting 11 boundaries and two sixes.

For the record, during the West Indies second innings, the new SG Test ball had to be changed twice inside 12 overs.

On Saturday, Mohammed Siraj and Hanuma Vihari were released to play Vijay Hazare quaryer-finals for their respective teams Hyderabad and Andhra.

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