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Coutinho brace helps Brazil forget Neymar in winning Copa start

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Sao Paulo: A brace from Philippe Coutinho handed hosts Brazil a winning start to the Copa America in a 3-0 victory over Bolivia as the absence of superstar Neymar was quickly forgotten.

Barcelona’s Coutinho scored from the penalty spot early in the second half and added a close-range header three minutes later.

Substitute Everton netted a sensational third five minutes from time to clinch a Group A victory for coach Tite’s tournament favorites in Sao Paul.

 

The build-up to the competition had been dominated by Neymar’s woes, firstly when he was accused of rape by a Brazilian model, and then when he damaged ankle ligaments in a friendly last week, forcing him out of the Copa.

If Brazil’s first-half performance was anything to go by, the Paris Saint-Germain star was sorely missed, but Coutinho’s brace at least silenced the jeers that met the team at half-time.

“Whistles are part of the game, the fans want us to win and play well, so that’s why they jeer,” said the match-winner, whose goals papered over the cracks of an at times disjointed performance.

“We always want their support but we’re focused on the objective, which is the match,” Coutinho told Brazil’s SportTV.

“Whistles or cheers, the important thing is to stay focused and get the win.” Brazil made a bright start and predictably dominated the early possession and chances
But surprisingly their greatest threat came from set-pieces with Coutinho’s corner delivery causing panic in the Bolivian backline.


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Zimbabwe cricket suspended over ‘political interference’

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London: The International Cricket Council (ICC) has suspended Zimbabwe over a failure to keep the sport free from government interference, the world governing body said.

The ICC board, after meeting in London, unanimously decided to freeze funding to the national governing body and ban the southern African country’s teams from international events.

“We do not take the decision to suspend a member lightly, but we must keep our sport free from political interference,” ICC chairman Shashank Manohar said in a statement on Thursday.

 

“What has happened in Zimbabwe is a serious breach of the ICC constitution and we cannot allow it to continue unchecked.”

Zimbabwe’s Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) suspended Zimbabwe Cricket last month and installed temporary leadership, putting the national cricket board on a collision course with the ICC.

The government-run commission acted after alleging corruption in the administration, but the ICC viewed it as government interference, which is against the world body’s rules.

The ICC called for Zimbabwe’s cricket officials to be reinstated within three months after which the suspension will be reviewed in October, it said.

Zimbabwe failed to qualify for the recent 50-overs World Cup in England, having struggled to schedule matches against major teams in international cricket as their financial position worsened.

The country first became a full ICC member in 1992 and enjoyed an impressive run at the 1999 World Cup, narrowly missing out on a semi-final spot.

Croatia and Zambia were also suspended, while Morocco was expelled for failing to meet ICC’s membership criteria.

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Time to take practical decision on Dhoni, look towards future like he did: Gambhir

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New Delhi: Mahendra Singh Dhoni invested in the future as skipper by demanding younger players and it is now time that “practical decisions” are taken with regards to him given that youngsters are once again waiting in the wings, says former India opener Gautam Gambhir.

There is intense speculation that Dhoni, who has already retired from the Test format, has played his last ODI for India during the World Cup in which the team was knocked out of the semifinal after a loss to New Zealand.

The selection panel will meet on Sunday to pick squads for the West Indies tour amid intense focus on Dhoni’s future and Gambhir said it is time to keep emotions aside.

 

“It’s important to look into the future. And when Dhoni was the skipper, he invested in the future. I remember Dhoni saying in Australia that me, Sachin and Sehwag can’t play the CB series together as the grounds were big,” Gambhir was quoted as saying in TV9 Bharatvarsh.

“He wished for young players for the World Cup. It’s necessary to take practical decisions than being emotional. And it’s time to groom the youngsters. Be it Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Ishan Kishan or any other wicketkeeper, whoever is believed to have the potential should be made the wicket-keeper,” he said.

Gambhir said, unless the younger lot gets enough chances, they won’t be able to deliver for India.

“Give him chances for one and half-years and if he doesn’t perform, then others should be tried out as well. Then one would get to know who the keeper for the next World Cup is,” the 37-year-old said.

The cricketer-turned-politician hailed Dhoni as one of the best captains but said it is unfair to give all credit to him for India’s success and also slam him when the team fails to perform.

“If you see the statistics, then he (Dhoni) is the best captain. But that doesn’t mean that other captains have done badly. Sourav Ganguly has done good captaincy; we have won outside under him. Under Virat Kohli’s captaincy, we have won ODI series in South Africa and Test series in Australia,” Gambhir said.

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ICC approves concussion substitutes in cricket

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London: Men’s and women’s teams across all formats of international and first class cricket will be allowed to replace concussed players during matches following a two-year trial in the domestic game, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said.

The rule has been included in the governing body’s playing conditions and will be effective starting August 1 when the Ashes series between England and Australia begins at Edgbaston.

Decisions on concussion will be made by the team’s medical representative while the incoming player, who will be allowed to bat and bowl, must be deemed a “like for like” replacement approved by the match referee.

 

“Following a two-year trial… in domestic cricket, the ICC approved concussion player replacements in all formats of men’s and women’s international cricket and for first class cricket worldwide,” the ICC said in a statement following their annual conference in London.

Concussion substitutes have been on trial in Australia’s domestic game since the 2016-17 season while the England and Wales Cricket Board adopted the regulations for its four professional domestic competitions in 2018.

Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) welcomed the ICC’s move to expand the rule to cover international cricket.

“Creating an environment where players feel comfortable in dealing with concussion… and are able to be appropriately accessed, is vital for their long-term health and wellbeing,” ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson said.

Discussions on concussion and player safety intensified after former Australia test batsman Phillip Hughes died in 2014, having been fatally hit on the head by a bouncer in a first class match.

Afghanistan’s Hashmatullah Shahidi ignored medical advice and continued batting after being hit on the head by a bouncer in a World Cup clash with England last month, prompting demands that players should not take those calls.

CA sports science manager Alex Kountouris said the new rule would allow players to declare symptoms of concussion that could occur well after the incident, knowing their team would not be disadvantaged.

Concussion is a major concern in other sports as well, with rugby’s world body considering rule changes to reduce the risk of head injuries.

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