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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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Saina’s defeat knocks India out of women’s badminton team event

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Jakarta  |  An inconsistent Saina Nehwal saved four match points before losing to Nozomi Okuhara after PV Sindhu’s gritty win over world number one Japanese Akane Yamaguchi, as India crashed out of the Asian Games women’s badminton team event today.

The Indian women’s team, which won a historic bronze in the last edition in Incheon, lost the quarterfinal to the top-seeded and the most formidable team in the world.

It was always going to be a close affair between Sindhu and Yamaguchi but the Indians prevailed in the tight opening singles 21-18 21-19.

Sindhu, who took 41 minutes to put India ahead, had also beaten Yamaguchi at the recent World Championship on the way to the final.

N Sikki Reddy and Arathi Sunil struggled to contain unforced errors and lost tamely 15-21 6-21 to Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota, allowing the Japanese to make it 1-1.

In the crucial second women’s singles, Saina made a dramatic comeback and saved four match points in the second game, but eventually lost 11-21 25-23 16-21 after battling for one hour and 11 minutes.

Saina initially struggled to contain her unforced errors while Okuhara was disciplined. The Indian hit almost everything either over the line or on to the net but still made a stunning comeback.

She, though, could not take advantage of the momentum and lost five points in a row from 16-16 in the decider to lose the match to Okuhara, who felt the heat towards the end but was helped by the Indian’s inconsistency.

In the must-win fourth rubber, Sindhu and Ashwini Ponappa lost 13-21 12-21 to Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, who were solid with their defence.

Okuhara stood out with her retrieving. There was just one point in the entire first game, which Saina dominated, and that too Okuhara prolonged with her amazing recovery and movement on the court.

Okuhara remained disciplined while Saina could not rein in the errors. The Indian was soon trailing 11-19. A smart winner from Okuhara sealed the opening game.

Okuhara stayed strong with her returns and court movement, racing to a 7-1 lead. Saina got her second point only when Okuhara committed a rare unforced error.

The Indian also struggled with her judgement in leaving the shuttles while Okuhara remained remarkably accurate.

From 7-15, Saina logged five straight points and turned the game on its head. She made it 20-20 from nowhere.

Saina buried a smash to the net to give Okuhara her fourth match point but saved it with another down the line smash. She had her first game point at 23-22 but hit long. She finally made it 1-1 when Okuhara failed to return a drop volley.

Egged on by her teammates, shouting ‘jeetega bhai jeetega India jeetega’, Saina yet again reduced the deficit to open up a two-point lead at first break.

With better control over her shots and agile movement, Saina kept troubling the Japanese. The two players were heading towards an exciting finish after being locked 16-16.

From there Saina lost five points in a row. At 16-17, she left the shuttle, thinking it was out, but it fell in.

Saina hit a smash out on the right side of Okuhara, looking for a winner, conceding a crucial three-point lead. Okuhara made sure there was no drama in the end and heaved a sigh of relief when Saina’s backhand return met with the net.

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We threw away a good start: Jos Buttler

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Nottingham | England batsman Jos Buttler has lamented that they should have done better after being placed at 54 for no loss at one point of the third Test against India here.

Hardik Pandya took 5-28 as England were bowled out for 161 runs, conceding a 168-run lead that swelled up to 292 runs at stumps on day two.

“It’s very disappointing after a really good start to the day as well, picking up those early wickets and being 50 for none. We let that slip. It’s important we can recognise why it’s happened, and improve,” said Buttler yesterday.

“It’s been tough for the batsmen (at times) throughout this series. When we’ve got that momentum, when we’ve been bowling, it felt like we were going to take a wicket every ball.

“It comes down to how can you wrestle back the initiative maybe with a counter-attacking style or someone trying to sit in and be a bit of a limpet for an hour and ride that session out. But obviously we weren’t good enough to do that today,” he added.

Buttler said that the key is to not repeat mistakes in the second innings if England are to improve their showing.

“It comes down to the guys working hard, being disciplined, practice, all of the above. It’s hard, it’s not easy it’s not meant to be easy. Test cricket tests individuals and teams in tough ways. It takes a lot of character for us to come back from tough situations like this.

“Guys have got to improve. We know that as a side – to get to where we want to go, we need to eradicate these collapses. The key is trying not to make the same mistakes. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again, whether that’s as an individual or as a team.

“We know in England conditions can be tough favourable for swing bowling. Credit to India, I thought they bowled really well and got the ball moving around, and we weren’t good enough to deal with that today.”

The batsman said that they didn’t rule out India from the series after taking a 2-0 lead and will fight hard on day three to make a comeback in this Test.

“India were ever going to go anywhere. They’re the number one ranked side in the world and they’re there for a reason. It was always going to be a competitive series. Just because they were 2-0 down I don’t think we could have taken anything lightly. We probably didn’t quite hit our straps as well as we would have liked the first morning with the ball as well.

“Winning the toss brings pressure to take wickets and we didn’t quite execute as well as we would have liked. I think it’s always going to be a competitive series against the number one team in the world so they were always going to come back strongly,” said Buttler.

“It looks like, when one side has that momentum, it seems hard to wrestle back. It’s hard for sides to get back into games. Yes, of course otherwise there’s no point turning up. I think any professional sportsman takes pride in playing for their country and we’ll turn up tomorrow and we’ll be fighting hard,” he said.

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Don’t compare me to Kapil Dev, says Hardik Pandya

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Nottingham | All-rounder Hardik Pandya has said that comparisons with Indian legend Kapil Dev are unwarranted and that he should be left alone to perform on the basis of his capabilities.

Pandya took career-best figures of 5-28 as England were bowled out for 161 in reply to India’s 329. The visitors finished day two on 124-2, thus taking an overall 292-run lead.

The all-rounder also took on his critics saying he doesn’t play for them.

“Comparisons are fine. But the problem with this (comparison) is that all of a sudden when something goes wrong and they are like he is not that. I have never wanted to be Kapil Dev. Let me be Hardik Pandya. I am good at being Hardik Pandya, and I have reached here till now played 40 ODIs and 10 Tests being Hardik Pandya, not Kapil Dev.

“They have created their era, let me be Hardik Pandya. Let’s stop comparing me with anyone. I will be happy if you don’t,” he said yesterday after a game-changing performance.

Pandya ran through the England line-up after Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were unable to hit the right lengths.

“I don’t play for them (critics). They are getting paid for saying things which I don’t even want to know or care. I play for my country. I am doing the right thing. My team is happy with me, nothing else matters,” he said, aiming his guns at the recent criticism that has come after defeats in Birmingham and Lord’s.

He said that nothing had changed from the previous matches, whilst also commended the efforts of Ishant Sharma who took 2-32 and revealed that he shares a great chemistry with the seasoned pacer.

“We were bowling the same length that we were bowling in the other games as well. It’s just that we were getting enough swing and obviously the situation was such if they played a bad shot it would be India on the up again. So we had the cushion of having runs under the belt,” he said.

“If you see the other two games I have done the same thing (bring variations in wrist and grip position). It’s just that today I got the wickets, that’s it. I feel that with my bowling style it is important to it because they will get used to it if I come and bowl with the same length.

“I don’t swing both ways that much, and my outswing is my main ball so that’s why I keep on using. It makes difficult for them to get it exactly where I am bowling,” he added.

Talking about Sharma’s influence, Pandya said, “Ishant and I, we keep talking about the game because I love to improve no matter how. So as bowlers we keep on taking. Captain has lots of things under his belt here, so as a bowling unit we need to step up and think in our way as well. We are going to make life difficult for the batsmen and Ishant was telling me the same thing don’t go for the wickets.

“If you keep bowling at the rights areas, you have the talent to get them. That’s the same thing I tell him and same thing that we tell other bowlers too. Keep it tight, let’s see what they do, let’s check their patience and once again we saw the result what happens.”

Last year in Sri Lanka, Pandya had scored his maiden Test hundred at Pallekele. He said that the five-wicket haul gave him more pleasure.

“I am happier with taking a five-wicket haul than scoring a hundred. I have taken very few five wicket hauls. I think this is the second of my life, and it has come at a very important place/juncture so I am very happy, said the all-rounder.

“Yes England have a few important players. If you get them out, they get into trouble. But cricket is a very funny game. If you see the Lord’s Test, the game was equal and all of a sudden (Chris) Woakes came and scored a hundred.

“So, all are capable, and that’s why they are playing for England. I always believe that till we don’t get eleven (wickets), we should not be relaxed. They have problems but we will like to take them as many times as we get,” he added.

Last but not the least, he praised youngster Rishabh Pant who became the first Indian wicketkeeper to take five catches in his first Test.

“Rishabh Pant is an amazing player. The confidence he has when I was new in the team, I was same like that. I get that feeling when I see him and it hasn’t been too many years for me either. Looking at the confidence in him, he will play for long. He is a horse for the long race. He will do well and he is not afraid of anything. If in this field, if someone plays as freely, success will come,” said Pandya.

“Even yesterday when he came in, the way he batted was amazing. He was saying ‘I am nervous’. I looked at the board and said ‘I have played 55 balls and scored 18, you are already 18 in some 23 balls’.

“We were making fun as well and he is amazing behind the stumps, KL (Rahul) as well when you know someone is catching so well, you know as a bowler if you create a chance they will grab it,” he signed off.

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