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Akhtar blames politics for lack of Indo-Pak cricket

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New Delhi: Former pacer Shoaib Akhtar feels cricketers in India and Pakistan are being denied a chance to experience the historic cross-border sporting rivalry between the two countries due to politics.
India and Pakistan have not played a full bilateral series since 2007 in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.
A short series was played in India in 2012 but considering the current hostility in diplomatic ties, resumption of full cricketing ties between the two nations seems highly unlikely anytime soon.
“It is terribly sad that cricketers from either side of the border are not often getting to experience the Indo-Pak rivalry. Along with the Ashes, it is the biggest series in the game,” Akhtar said.
“The cricketers are not getting a chance to become overnight heroes for their respective countries. Pakistan cricketers are adored in India, I myself have got so much love from India.
“I really wanted the current Pakistani crop to experience the same kind of love we received in India back in the day and showcase their talent,” said the flamboyant fast bowler, who considers himself fortunate to have been a part of many Indo-Pak battles.
He too made the most of his opportunities and became an overnight sensation in Pakistan by castling Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar off successive balls during the Asian Test Championship at Kolkata in 1999.
“Indo-Pak cricket should happen but if it is not happening, one should move on and avoid making statements,” said the ‘Rawalpindi Express’.
As things stand now, the two teams meet only in ICC events. They clashed twice in the Champions Trophy in England last year with Pakistan taking sweet revenge of their league stage loss in the final.
Refusing to blame any one stakeholder for the long halt in cricketing ties, Akhtar feels it will be status quo until the countries start talking again at the diplomatic level.
“I feel bilateral series won’t happen until bilateral talks resume between the two countries. And in the current scenario, one doesn’t know if cricket diplomacy will work or not,” he explained.
“It is a bit strange and sad that it will be decided at the diplomatic level when it is often said the sports should be left aside from politics,” he added.
Akhtar felt neither of the two boards are to blamed for the current situation.
“Having said that, it is not anyone’s fault (the BCCI or PCB). Both boards want the series to take place. It is in their interest if the series happens,” Akhtar said.


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Ganguly backs Dhawan to shine at ICC World Cup

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Mumbai:There is not a bowler in the world that can stop Shikhar Dhawan when the opener is in determined mood and the left-hander will be crucial to Indias hopes at this years Cricket World Cup, former captain Sourav Ganguly has said.

Dhawan smashed 97 not out off 63 balls in Delhi Capitalsseven-wicket victory against Kolkata Knight Riders in Fridays Indian Premier League (IPL) contest at Eden Gardens, much to the delight of Ganguly, an advisor to the Capitals.

Captain Virat Kohli and his deputy Rohit Sharma are India`s batting mainstays in one-day cricket but Ganguly puts Dhawan, who has 16 centuries from 128 ODIs with a 93-plus strike rate, in the same league.

 

“The three best players in one-day cricket — Dhawan, Rohit, Virat,” Ganguly told the IPL website. “When he (Dhawan) gets set and gets in he`s unstoppable.

“All I expect from him is determination. When he is determined, no bowler in the world can stop him.”

Dhawan`s second fifty of this IPL season, which catapulted Delhi into the top four, augurs well for India ahead of the May 30 to July 14 World Cup in England and Wales.

Along with opening partner Rohit, the onus will be on Dhawan to give India strong starts in the tournament and the southpaw has performed well on English soil.

Named man of the series in their triumphant 2013 Champions Trophy campaign, Dhawan was also the tournament`s leading scorer four years later when India lost in the final to Pakistan.

“If he gets set, he takes the game away. This is how he plays for India,” Ganguly, who led India to the final of the 2003 World Cup, later told reporters. “He`s a class act.”

Two-time champions India begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa in Southampton on June 5.

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Olympique Lyon’s Champions League spot under threat after Nantes defeat

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London: Olympique Lyonnais` Champions League qualifying hopes were hit as they were beaten 2-1 at Nantes in Ligue 1.

Third-placed Lyon, who hold the final Champions League qualifying spot, were undone by Anthony Limbombes late free-kick after Martin Terrier had cancelled out Kalifa Coulibalys opener for Nantes.

Lyon are on 56 points with six games left, six ahead of fourth-placed St Etienne, who play their game in hand at home against Girondins de Bordeaux on Sunday.

 

It was Lyon`s third straight defeat in all competitions after they were knocked out of the French Cup semi-finals by Stade Rennes and lost at home to lowly Dijon in the league last weekend.

The result leaves an even bigger question mark over coach Bruno Genesio`s future, with the club set to make a decision on whether to extend his contract at the end of the season.

With Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay and Marcelo on the bench, Lyon got off to a bad start.

Coulibaly opened the scoring in the 11th minute after collecting a though ball from Majeed Waris.

Lyon were shaken by the hosts but weathered the storm and equalised one minute before the interval when Terrier curled a fine shot into the back of the net to finish off a counter-attack.

Limbombe earned Nantes victory seven minutes from fulltime with an inch-perfect free-kick, lifting the Canaries up to 15th in the table on 34 points.

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Defender Gomez sign two-year contract extension in East Bengal

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Mumbai: East Bengal fans will heave a huge sigh of relief after their star defender Borja Gomes decided to sign a contract extension with the club and not follow Jobby Justin to go out. The Kolkata-based club is in the process of becoming a part of the ISL next season with I-League’s future looking bleak.

East Bengal came agonizingly close to lift the I-League title yet again this season before Chennai City FC eventually won it as the Kolkata club finished second.And with I-League looking to either get dissolved or set to get demoted to the second division, it was important for East Bengal to finish high on the table.

However, that wasn’t enough for the club to retain their star striker Jobby Justin, who signed a pre-contract with two-time ISL champions ATK just after the I-League ended and the Super Cup was in its quarter-final stage. But, the club was quick to react after that setback and on Friday handed a two-year contract extension to Spanish defender Borja Gomez.

 

“East Bengal FC are pleased to announce the renewal of contract with Borja Gomez Perez for the next two seasons,” the club said in a statement.

“According to him, this is the best team and ‘fans are the best in India’,” the statement added.

The Madrid-born La-Liga star, who is nick-named as the ‘Senapati’, was one of the key members for the club last season and has been a motivator for the team both on and off the field. Gomez has previously played for Granada CF, Real Oviedo, Hercules CF, Real Murcia and more before East Bengal had signed him from UD Sanse in January last year.

East Bengal has already announced their bid for ISL in a board meeting and are currently waiting for the terms to get financially acceptable.

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