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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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India crush NZ by 8 wickets in first ODI after sun-induced stoppage

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Virat Kohli and Shami batting at today's match in Napier, New Zealand

Napier | India produced cricket of the calibre that has become synonymous with Virat Kohli’s men to crush New Zealand in the first ODI but a bizarre and unprecedented sun-induced interruption overshadowed the on-field action here Wednesday.

Entering the five-match rubber following maiden Test and ODI series triumphs in Australia, India signalled their intent with a clinical display, which saw them chase down a revised target of 156 by eights wickets in 34.5 overs.

The Duckworth-Lewis method came into the picture for an interruption which was not caused by rain for the first time.

On a near-perfect day, the only thing that didn’t go their way was the toss. But India made light of that by bowling out the home team for a paltry 157 in 38 overs.

Wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav was the most successful bowler, returning figures of 4/39 in 10 overs, while seamer Mohammed Shami finished with an excellent 3/19 in six overs. There were also two wickets for leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.

Captain Kane Williamson top-scored for the hosts with 64 off 81 balls.

In response, Shikhar Dhawan began the innings with a flurry of boundaries, eventually finishing as the top-scorer with 75 off 103 balls.

The left-handed opening batman, battling indifferent form, studded his innings with six boundaries.

India were comfortably placed at 44 for one when, in a bizarre turn of events, players walked off the ground after dinner because the setting sun made it difficult for them to spot the ball at McLean park.

This led to an interruption that has never been seen in international cricket before.

Because of the nearly half-an-hour delay, the target was revised to 156 in 49 overs, which the visitors chased without much ado.

While Rohit Sharma may have lost his focus after the dinner break, Kohli and Dhawan didn’t let the sun-induced stoppage distract their minds when play resumed. Kohli, though, got out five short of a fifty.

The Indian captain hit three boundaries in his 59-ball knock before pacer Lockie Ferguson had him caught behind with a quick delivery that caught the batsman by surprise.

In the course of his 26th ODI fifty, Dhawan became the joint fourth fastest batsman to reach 5000 runs. Dhawan needed 118 innings to reach the mark.

This knock will bring some relief for Dhawan as he hasn’t scored a half century in his last nine innings.

Earlier, opting to bat, the New Zealanders were off to an inauspicious start, losing both openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro within the first five overs with just 18 runs on the board.

By sending back Guptill in his 56th match, the 28-year-old Shami became the fastest Indian to reach 100 wickets in ODIs.

Coming into the series after a hugely successful 2018, Ross Taylor looked good in his 41-ball 24, but he was brilliantly caught and bowled by Chahal, who lured the batsman to dance down the pitch a tad too early with his change of pace.

Till Taylor was there alongside Williamson, things looked good for New Zealand, as the duo played a few delightful shots, especially the skipper whose trademark backfoot punch through the covers stood out.

Tom Latham was dismissed in similar fashion, with leg-spinner Chahal being the bowler.

Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner came, swung their willows for a six and a couple of boundaries, and got out to Jadhav and Shami respectively as New Zealand stuttered at 133 for six in the 30th over.

By that time, Williamson too had had enough, and got out while trying to hoick Yadav over long-on.

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Karan Johar apologises for Pandya-Rahul ‘Koffee with Karan’ episode

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Mumbai | Breaking his silence on the controversy following comments by cricketers Hardik Pandya and K L Rahul on his chat show, filmmaker Karan Johar says he apologises for what happened and admits the conversation “may have crossed boundaries”.

The filmmaker also said he feels very responsible for the remarks made on “Koffee with Karan” and has spent sleepless nights wondering how to “undo this damage”.

Pandya and Rahul were widely slammed for their remarks labelled misogynistic and sexist and have been provisionally suspended by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), pending an inquiry.

“I’m not justifying the conversation that happened on the episode. I’m saying that perhaps things were said that may have crossed boundaries and I apologise because it was my platform where it happened,” Johar told ET Now in an interview.

The filmmaker, who is in Davos for the World Economic Forum, said the boys have “paid the price” for what happened on the episode.

“I haven’t spoken about it really… I feel very responsible because it was my show and my platform. I invited them as guests and so the ramifications and repercussions of the show are my responsibility.

“I have had so many sleepless nights, just wondering about how I can undo this damage. Who is going to listen to me? It has now gone into a zone that is beyond my control,” Johar told the channel in the interview posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

Calling himself a feminist who has been brought up by strong women, Johar said he asks the same questions to everyone.

“I don’t defend myself when I say this, the questions I asked the two boys are the questions I ask everyone, including women. When Deepika (Padukone) and Alia (Bhatt) were on the show, I asked them those questions.

“I have no control over the answers that come my way. And post the show, I have a control room of about 16-17 girls. The show ‘Koffee with Karan’ is run entirely by women. I’m the only man there. None of them came up (with issues).”

According to Johar, some of them thought Pandya was wild, “crazy or cracked” and some said he was funny too.

“No one came and told me that ‘Karan, this is was inappropriate’,” he added.

Asked if he has any regrets about the episode, Johar said he regretted what has happened to them.

“And then there was talk about me actually enjoying the TRP. I don’t care about the TRPs. This is a spin-off… It’s not my career, it’s theirs. I don’t care about the ratings. People don’t understand that an English language show is never dependent on its ratings. We are nowhere in the radar of ratings.

“It was not ratings, it was meant to be my show and I want to say it is frivolous. It is sometimes completely borderline ridiculous, irreverent, candid and stops making sense… That’s the show,” he added.

After the controversy, the episode featuring the two cricketers was taken down by Hotstar.

“Certain remarks/comments made by the guests on the episode 12 of Koffee with Karan may hurt the sentiments of our users/viewers. As a responsible platform, we have removed the episode from Hotstar with immediate effect,” Hotstar had tweeted.

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CWG gold medallist weightlifter Sanjita’s provisional suspension revoked

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New Delhi | The International Weightlifting Federation has revoked the provisional suspension on weightlifter K Sanjita Chanu for a failed dope test, a major reprieve for the two-time Commonwealth Games gold-medallist who has claimed innocence.

In a case that has dragged on for almost a year and has been marred by an “administrative” goof-up in Sanjita’s sample number, the IWF informed that a final decision on the matter is expected in the coming days.

“On the basis of the information at its disposal, the IWF has decided that the provisional suspension of the athlete (Khumukcham Sanjita) shall be lifted as of today (22 January 2019),” IWF’s legal counsel Eva Nyirfa said in an e-mail sent to the national federation and Sanjita.

“The IWF Hearing Panel will render its decision on the athlete’s case in due course,” it added.

The 25-year-old Sanjita, who had won a gold in the women’s 53kg category at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, had tested positive for anabolic steroid testosterone. Her urine sample was taken prior to the World Championships in United States in November 2017, and she was put under provisional suspension from May 15 last year.

A final decision of the IWF panel is yet to come but Sanjita said her assertion of innocence has been vindicated.

“I have got a mail from the international federation and our national federation has also called me up this morning informing about the lifting of the (provisional) suspension. I am relieved and happy. I am innocent and I have never taken any banned substance in my career. I am vindicated now,” she told PTI from her native place in Manipur.

“At the same time, I experienced mental trauma during these past 8-9 months (since May 15 last year) due to the mistake of the international federation. I hope nothing like this happen to any athlete in future. An athlete’s reputation is very precious,” she added.

Sanjita said the Indian Weightlifting Federation had asked her to join the national camp immediately if she wants.

“The federation official told me today to write if I want to join national camp. I am doing that. I missed the Asian Games and World Championships in 2018. I want to compete in the World Championships this year and qualify for 2020 Olympics. For any athlete, Olympics is the ultimate,” she said.

The international body informed about her doping offence only in May last year. That meant the Manipuri weightlifter participated in the Gold Coast CWG, where she finished top of the podium. She had also won gold in the 48kg in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

The IWF had, in July last year, admitted to committing a mistake in giving the exact sample number of Sanjita in its report. The world body had mentioned two different urine sample numbers in its communication of her dope flunk.

The urine sample of Sanjita was taken out-of-competition on November 17, 2017 and the laboratory results of the tests conducted in the United States was handed to the international body on December 20. The communication of her failed dope test was given to Sanjita only on May 15 last year and her ‘B’ sample returned positive on September 11.

Her representatives then appeared before a IWF hearing panel on October 19 in Budapest, Hungary. She presented her submissions on October 19 itself and on November 1.

In a communication to Sanjita — a rare instance while a doping procedure is ongoing — the IWF hearing panel had said that “the case appears to be complicated”.

Sanjita’s doping issue even reached the Prime Minister‘s Office which directed the Sports Ministry to look into the matter.

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