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SV Sunil in serious doubt for hockey World Cup due to knee injury

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SV Sunil

Bhubaneswar | In a major setback for the Indian hockey team, star striker S V Sunil has been all but ruled out of next month’s World Cup after suffering a knee injury.

Sunil suffered the ligament injury on his left knee on October 4 during India’s ongoing preparatory camp here. He will require four to five weeks to recover from the injury, which virtually shuts the door on him for the World Cup to be held here from November 28 to December 16.

“I suffered the injury while diving for a ball during training on October 4. I have consulted specialists here and the MRI revealed it is an Lateral Collateral Ligament injury (LCL) injury,” Sunil told PTI at the Bhubaneswar airport. “Initially there was massive swelling and then the doctors here said that there appears to be a slight gap in the knee joint,” he added.

Sunil is flying to Delhi on Thursday to consult Hockey India’s official doctor B K Nayak after which his availability for the World Cup will be known. He, however, still remains hopeful.

“I am still hopeful because a week has already passed and recovery from the LCL injury generally takes four weeks. Let’s see what happens. I will get a clear picture tomorrow. But if I can’t play in the World Cup that would be a massive loss for me,” he said.

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On no balls, Ishant takes jibe at Australian media

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Ishant Sharma

Perth | Indian pacer Ishant Sharma Saturday took a jibe at the Australian media when discussions turned to front-foot no balls, following the second day’s play in the second Test here.

Ishant was guilty of bowling a few no-balls in the first Test which escaped the on-field umpires’ attention. While his propensity to overstep denied India wickets on two occasions, the poor policing of front-foot slip-ups attracted the ire of the host nation.

“Maybe Australian media should answer the question. Not me. I have been playing cricket for so long. And these things happen. Because you are a human, you are bound to make a mistake. I was not worried about it at all,” Ishant said during a press conference.

He said that the counter-attack from Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane was vital as India ended the day at 172 for three in reply to Australia’s 326 all out. “Whenever Virat is batting we feel confident. We finished the day in a strong position. Hopefully, they will both continue. The game is in the balance right now. Hopefully, we will dominate the first session tomorrow,” Ishant said.

Kohli’s unbeaten 82 coupled with Ajinkya Rahane’s counterattacking 51 helped India overcome the cheap dismissals of Murali Vijay (0) and K L Rahul (2). “Rahane added quickfire 20-30 runs and they were really needed at that time. If they had played defence then Australia would have stayed on their plans and it was important for him to counterattack to force them to change plans,” he added.

Earlier, Kohli added 74 runs for the third wicket with Cheteshwar Pujara after the Indian openers had been dismissed cheaply. “When Pujara defends, the ball doesn’t go past the square. I have played against him and I know how difficult it is to bowl at him. He makes the bowlers tired. I knew if he stays he can do wonders. It was unfortunate the way he got out. We don’t get those wickets that easily, going down leg and caught behind.

“Then, Jinx and Virat played pretty good shots which shifted momentum in our side and we ended the day pretty well,” he said. Sharma recovered from a poor spell, especially in the morning session on day one, to finish with 4-41 as Australia only added 49 to their overnight score of 277-6.

“I think the wicket was really slow at that time. It wasn’t as up and down as it was after lunch when there was something there for the bowlers. The first hour was the best time to bat on at that wicket. As a senior bowler, a responsibility has been added.

“Whenever there is a tough situation I like to bowl and take wickets. I have seen senior bowlers put up their hand in tough situations in the past and at that time I didn’t know much about it. But now in tough situations, I want to do the same,” he said.

India leads the four-match series 1-0 following their 31-run win at Adelaide and they entered the second game high on confidence.

“On day one, we need to be patient otherwise if you think there is going to be a lot of bounce and I will bounce them out, it will not work. Bowling to good areas is really important on these kind of wickets.

“That’s why we kept bowling in the right areas, and keep on hitting those good lengths. The aim is to find out what the good length is, speak among each other, and then it becomes easier for everybody to find those lengths and bowl,” he added.

Praising Jasprit Bumrah, who was the stand-out Indian bowler in the first innings, Sharma said, “I don’t think he is improving. When he made his debut he had already improved (from a white-ball cricketer). That is why he was picked. The good thing about him is he gives his heart out and you only need to support him.

“Maybe he was beating the bat couple of times but he was bowling 140 every single time. He never gives up, which is the best sign for any fast bowler.”

India has no spinner in this match and R Ashwin’s absence also means that their tail begins at number eight with Sharma himself. The pacer said that it was a matter of time before the runs came from the lower order.

“It was not my decision who plays. I am happy to join the team and do well.

“Yes maybe abroad, we are not scoring as many as we can but no other teams are doing too. If Australia comes to India, their tail doesn’t score many runs. So it’s about the home team.

“We are not used to that kind of bounce and pace and that kind of thing. Yes, we are working on our batting skills as well so slowly we will get used to it. Maybe someday our bowlers will score a 50 too,” he signed off.

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Indian batsmen have to be disciplined on day 2: Hanuma Vihari

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Hanuma Vihari

Perth | All-rounder Hanuma Vihari says key for Indian batsmen will be to remain disciplined on a pitch which has got better for the fast bowlers after a good contest between ball and bat on the opening day of the second Test.

The pitch was slow in the morning, but it quickened up after lunch. The Indian bowlers adjusted well to take six wickets. Vihari took two for 53 as Australia finished day one at 277-6 after being 112-0 at one stage.

“For us the important thing is to not think about those aspects too much. If it is up and down, you can’t do much about it. If we can keep that out of mind, we will be successful. As batsmen, we will try to be as disciplined as possible, just how we did in the second innings of the last Test,” Vihari said.

“You have to play ball by ball. That’s what matters. If you are thinking about the previous ball, you won’t react perfectly to the next ball. Keep that ball out of your mind,” he added.

Indian bowlers were “disciplined” after an ordinary start on the opening day of the second Test and the target for day two is to restrict Australia to 320-odd in the first innings. “The first hour tomorrow will be very crucial. If we get them out for below 320, we are right back in the game. If we bat well, we have a good chance. The first hour is crucial,” said Vihari.

“Our only plan was to be disciplined. I think we did very well in that aspect. In all three sessions, we bounced back really well. They had so many plays and misses. It happens in the game. Overall we put in a good effort,” he added.

India went in with four pacers for only the third time in their Test history, and Vihari, who bowled 14 overs, said he understood the role of bowling a few overs through this match.

Vihari didn’t have the best start but tightened up enough to snare two crucial wickets, dismissing set batsmen Marcus Harris and Shaun Marsh.

“I tried to bowl a little bit quicker because I was trying to hit the surface a little bit more and get the bounce out of the wicket. That was the main idea try to keep it tight and give the seamers a rest. I knew I would have to step up if required. Overall I was prepared for that. I was happy I could do a job for the team,” he said.

“I have done a bit of bowling, even in the Ranji Trophy level, but more in limited overs. I know the idea of where I can make the batsmen play. I try to play with the fields I have. I want to keep it simple and try to do the job for the country. I know my role very well in the team. I try to keep it tight. If the wickets come, it is a bonus. My job is to make the batsman play a loose shot for his runs,” he added.

When asked about the pitch, he said that it quickened up during the day. Further, he added that the Indian batting line-up will have to be disciplined and patient in similarly difficult conditions on day two.

KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant were guilty of dropping catches, but a highlight for India in the field was Virat Kohli’s one-handed catch at second slip to dismiss Peter Handscomb.

“It was a blinder. Those are the moments that change the course of the game. We needed something after lunch to change the rhythm. It was a screamer. We were lucky he had come to slip in that very over. It was meant to happen, he said.

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Lyon will enjoy bowling with amount of bounce in Perth: Aaron Finch

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Nathan Lyon

Perth | Australian opener Aaron Finch believes the second Test against India is going to be a “real grind” and off-spinner Nathan Lyon will play an important role considering the amount of bounce on offer at the Perth wicket here.

Finch and Marcus Harris put on 112 runs for the opening partnership after which Australia finished the day at 277-6. “It’s going to be one of those games that’ll be a real grind for both sides. The position we’re in we would have taken at the start of the day, no doubt, especially winning the toss and batting,” Finch told reporters.

“I think Nathan Lyon will enjoy bowling with the amount of bounce on this track, no doubt he will be excited to bowl here,” added the opener, who scored 50 in Australia’s first innings on Friday.

Finch said batsmen can become indecisive sometimes while playing on this wicket. “When the ball starts seaming off good parts of the wicket and quite dramatically at times, I think that’s when you know you need to tighten up,” he said.

“But you have to also be in a position to cash in on some balls that you can hit, otherwise you get stuck in two minds and end up letting the wicket get you out. “So you have to be really proactive and take that out of play as much as you can,” he added, on how he and Harris batted on this wicket.”  India struck back with three wickets each in the second and third sessions, but Australia seemed to enjoy slight advantage after being 277-6 at stumps.

Asked about making the Indian bowlers work hard, Finch said, “Our plan was to bat on this wicket regardless of what happened in Adelaide, the heat and getting miles into their legs. “That was our plan to bat first anyway and take that challenges head on. No doubt it might play a factor later in this game, or third or fourth Test, but it was always our plan to bat (after winning the toss).”

Talking about his partner young Harris, who scored his maiden Test half-century at his home ground, Finch said, “I think what everyone’s seen from him so far, not a lot fazes him. He’s a pretty chilled out character who just goes with the flow and that’s the way he’s always been.  “He’s a great guy, but I think the tightness of his technique he covers his off stump, looks to hit down the ground and for such a short guy that can be quite unique at times.

“He’s definitely got all the shots, but I think the way he adapts his game and his game plan depending on the wicket, depending on the attack, I think that’ll hold him in great stead.”

Finch said playing together with Harris at Victoria in Sheffield Shield helped their partnership. “We’ve also played quite a bit of cricket together for Victoria so when you have a good relationship with somebody that stuff takes care of itself,” he said. “Batting out in the middle is always good fun with him. He keeps it pretty simple pretty relaxed. We just keep reminding each other to focus on what our game plan is and what our strengths are.”

Under-fire after flopping in the opening Test, Finch scored his second Test half-century on day one on Friday and spoke about the influence of Ricky Ponting with whom he had worked before the start of this game. “It (talking to Ponting) was really good because it was so simple. It was basically around covering my off stump and lining up slightly different my alignment and where I want to hit the ball,” he said.

“…it was good to have someone to chat to who’s had to work through that and alignment and things like that. It wasn’t anything I went out in the game with as such. It was more just moving my guard slightly further over,” he signed off.

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