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

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Saina

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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Athlete commits suicide at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium premises, SAI orders internal inquiry

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Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium

New Delhi | Parvinder Chaudhary, an 18-year-old athlete who represented India at international level, committed suicide by hanging himself from a ceiling fan at the capital’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, prompting the Sports Authority of India to order a “departmental inquiry”. Chaudhary was found hanging from the ceiling fan in his hostel room at the athletics academy of JLN stadium.

“We have ordered a departmental inquiry as the incident happened in our premises. The inquiry will be headed by Secretary SAI Swarn Singh Chabra and it should be completed within a week,” SAI Director General Neelam Kapur told PTI. Hailing from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, the athlete was brain dead by the time he was rushed to the Safdarjung Hospital, and could not be revived.

Apparently, he took the extreme step after an argument with his father over monetary issues, the top SAI official said. His fellow trainees and staff at the stadium were shocked as the athlete showed no signs of depression while training through the day. Kapur said, “Preliminary it seems a family matter related to monetary issues. What we came to know is that the boy had an argument with his father in the morning on phone after which his sister came to meet him in evening. He took the step in front of his sister after threatening her. She came out screaming and our staff immediately went there and brought him down.”

Parvinder, who was residing in room No.69 of JLN Stadium hostel since November 2016 and was training for 100 and 200 metre races, came back to his room at 5.30 in the evening and committed suicide half an hour later. “It is a very sad and tragic incident. We are extending all possible help to the family and have arranged for the transportation of his body to Aligarh. “Our officers will also accompany his body to ensure smooth conduct of his last rites.” Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who is in Rajasthan, has been informed and he has expressed his grief on the incident.

In 2017, he was selected for the Asian Youth Championship in Bangkok and won gold medal in relay. He also participated at the World Youth Championship last July. “He was alive when he was taken to Safdarjung but was brain dead and doctors couldn’t revive him. After initial treatment, he was taken to hospital half an hour later. He was in emergency,” another SAI official said.

He added, “His room mate and all the trainees and staff at JLN stadium were completely surprised by his act as the entire day he trained and showed no signs of depression.

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Dhawan’s return to form was important ahead of Australia tour: Rohit Sharma

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Shikhar Dhawan

Chennai | India’s stand-in captain Rohit Sharma said it was important for Shikhar Dhawan to return to form ahead of the crucial tour of Australia, which will be a completely “different ball game”.

Dhawan, who struggled throughout the preceding ODI series against West Indies, returned to form with a smashing 92 off 62 balls to help India beat the visitors by six wickets in the final T20 and complete a 3-0 series sweep. Dhawan and young Rishabh Pant (53 off 25) stitched 130 runs off 80 balls for the third wicket on Sunday to lay the foundation for the win after India were in a spot of bother at 45 for 2 while chasing 182.

“It was important from the team’s perspective and for the players to get some runs ahead of the important Australia tour. Shikhar especially was batting well in the ODI series but he was not able to get big scores. I am glad that he could play a match-winning knock and get some form under his belt before the crucial tour,” Rohit said.

“Rishabh was also hungry to go out and get some runs. It was the perfect situation. We were two down inside the first six overs. There was a bit of pressure as well. They handled it well and it was a match-winning partnership. It is important in the team’s perspective that both these guys got runs,” he said. India’s tour of Australia starts with the three-match T20 series at Brisbane on November 21.

Rohit said the upcoming tour of Australia will be a completely “different ball-game” and India must take confidence from the 3-0 win. “It is always challenging when it comes to going out there and performing. Every time you go there, you are tested as a player, as an individual and as a team. Australia will be a different ball game,” he said.

“When you win a series like this, you are high on confidence and it is all about taking that confidence there. We have to keep repeating the performances. It is a never-ending story,” added Rohit. He said the team had ticked quite a few boxes during the just-concluded series and fielding was one of them.

“We ticked a lot of boxes. Particularly, I am happy how we fielded. I think we fielded really well in the tournament. In batting and bowling, there will be mistakes and there will be some good performances,” Rohit said. Rohit has also been picked in India’s Test squad to face Australia, but he said he wasn’t thinking that far.

“I think there is still time before that. We have the T20Is and practice games before the first Test match. I am not thinking about the Test match. I am someone who doesn’t think too far ahead. All I am thinking of is going back, taking a few days off, and take the flight to Australia and prepare for the T20 series,” Rohit said.

“We will have enough time to think about Test matches after that. If I try and stay in present, it works for me. Test matches are something I was looking forward to for a long time and it will be nice to go out there and play a Test match for India.”

Rohit, who led India to victory in the Asia Cup recently before the T20 series triumph over the West Indies, said the secret of his captaincy success was to keep things simple. “Every game is a new game. Every time I go out there in the middle, I keep things simple. This game is simple and you need to keep it simple,” he said. Rohit praised newcomer Krunal Pandya and said India will benefit immensely from fearless cricketers like him.

“Krunal is a street-smart cricketer who is never afraid of any doing stuff on the field. I am impressed with how he approached these three games. He has got great ability to play for India for a long period of time. “He is fearless like his brother (Hardik). At the end of the day we need characters in the team. You need players like Hardik, Krunal who are not afraid to express themselves,” he said.

Asked about the absence of legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps during the T20 series, Rohit said: “MS (Dhoni) was not part of the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka also. “MS not being in any team is a big miss. His presence in the team itself is a huge boost for a lot of the players, not just me, especially the younger players.”

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0-3 whitewash looks embarrassing but we fought hard: Carlos Brathwaite

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Chennai | West Indies T20 captain Carlos Brathwaite has admitted that the 0-3 whitewash was indeed “embarrassing”, but said the fight they had shown with limited resources was the “hallmark” for the visitors in the just-concluded series.

India defeated reigning world champions West Indies by six wickets in the final T20 here on Sunday night to clean sweep the three-match series. “I mean, three-nought looks bad, and it looks embarrassing for me as captain as well. But the performances and fight we gave and the fact that we came together to use our resources to the best of our abilities was the hallmark for this short series for me,” Brathwaite said at the post-match press conference.

“The team morale is up. What we are doing as a group is trying to find the best to use the resources we have. In the first game, we showed our fight, we showed our belief with the ball,” he said.  “In the second game, we were blown away, and in the third game we batted excellently, but the game was taken away from us by a massive partnership. We still fought till the end.”

Brathwaite also heaped praise on young batsman Nicholas Pooran, who smashed a 25-ball 53 on Sunday. “It wasn’t just about his (Pooran’s) big hitting. He played some reverse scoops and he paced his innings very well. Obviously, the sixes will take the highlight, but let’s not forget how slowly he started. Getting the pace of the wicket, lining up the bowlers and then choosing the right time to strike,” Brathwaite said. “So massive credit to Nicholas who missed the first game, didn’t get a start in the second but he was always positive and. As a team, we want that performance again from him.”

Brathwaite said West Indies cricket needs its players to put up performances on a consistent basis. “And, you know, as a team that’s what we have — the ability for players to take the game away from the opposition and play a knock such as that (of Pooran). The challenge for us to do that on a more consistent basis. We know we have 3,4 match-winners in the side who can blow the opposition away,” he said. He also hailed comeback man Darren Bravo, who scored 43 and put on a key partnership with Pooran to lay the foundation in the middle overs.

“Darren Bravo’s knock was good as well. He laid the foundation in the middle overs. He batted all the way through, so we had good solid performances with the bat. “Obviously, Nicholas gets the plaudits because he raised his bat, but credit must go to the opening pair as well for getting us to fifty in the first six. We had a lot of positives with the bat and it’s about replicating this game in and game out,” Brathwaite said.

Brathwaite said West Indies should take lessons from the just-concluded series to the forthcoming tour of Bangladesh.  “We need to take what we have learnt from this series so far and work on it, and come back to Bangladesh thinking this is the fourth game of the series as opposed to the starting of another series,” he said. “We had back-to-back games, we didn’t start as well as we wanted and by the time we got into the tour we had lost the series. So if we can get this performance into Bangladesh’s first game of the series, then we can look to come out on top there.”

The Windies captain was not happy with one of his deliveries in the 18th over being called a wide but said it would not be fair to blame the decision for the defeat in a game that went down to the wire. “I hope that anything I say now, I won’t be fined for. If I get immunity, I can answer truthfully. But, it’s down to interpretation,” Brathwaite said. “In my opinion, Rishabh stepped away and stepped across, and if he was staying in his stance it would’ve hit his boots. And then he jumped inside his stance, so in my opinion it wasn’t a wide because of that.

“But you can’t look back at it. If one of the fours would’ve gone for one, then we would’ve won by three runs. So you can’t look at every single ball and think ‘this one decision, or that one decision cost us the game’. Need to give credit to Shikhar (Dhawan) and Rishabh (Pant) who played very well,” he added.

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