New Delhi: With pacers dominating the scenes in all the three Test matches between India and South Africa in the Rainbow Nation, the pattern wasn’t expected to unfold any differently in the limited-overs series. But spin duo Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal had other ideas. While Kuldeep finished with 17 wickets from 6 ODIs, Chahal picked as many wickets from 6 ODIs and 2 T20Is. A finger injury sustained during the 6th ODI ensured that Kuldeep was rested for the T20Is.
While Kuldeep is still around 10 days away from regaining full fitness, the chinaman bowler is already thinking about his next tournament — the IPL. But before the IPL, one must talk about unprecedented success that Kuldeep achieved in South Africa. The exuberance of youth is clearly evident in his voice as the reporter gets him to decode the secret of his achievement. Without making any bones, Kuldeep says he can’t thank his stars enough to have two stalwarts in skipper Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni as teammates.
Speaking to CricketNext, Kuldeep says while skipper Kohli plans it all — from field settings to the style of attack against each opposition batsman — former skipper Dhoni ensures that the bowlers implement all of it. Kuldeep doesn’t mind calling Dhoni the general of Kohli’s army.
“What we have achieved in South Africa has a lot to do with the way Kohli bhai and Dhoni bhai guide us in the middle. While you can all hear Dhoni bhai constantly guiding us on the stump microphone, it is Kohli bhai who actually plans it all. It is a complete work of two individuals who are brilliant when it comes to first planning and then implementing the plans.
“Credit has been given to us (Kuldeep and Chahal) for taking India home in the limited-overs series, but we couldn’t have been half as effective had it not been for the two senior pros guiding us. You need a skipper who backs you and believes in your ability to shine on the big stage. You think we could have been so successful if Kohli bhai had not given us the freedom to attack? I don’t think so,” he said.
Asked to talk about the thought going in his mind when he was handed the ball in the first ODI — the spin duo picked five wickets in the game — in Durban, Kuldeep is nonchalant as he says that looking at the wicket isn’t his way to go into a game.
“My role is to attack and also abide by the directions given by the skipper. I don’t really give the wicket much importance. I am an attacking bowler and I believe that if I can do my job, the wickets will come. Chahal telling me in Durban that the wicket had sharp turn gave me further confidence.
“In fact, I must admit that when I reached South Africa — during the third Test at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg — the mood in the camp was already upbeat. We had the upper-hand in the game and after coming so close in the first two games, it was for the first time that the result was also turning in our favour and that win set things up for the rest of the series.
“But yes, we did need to focus all over again and try and make inroads at the start of the ODIs. Keeping the winning momentum was very important for us as a team and that is what helped us because had we not won the first two ODIs, the Proteas would have come back strongly and the series could have ended in a much different manner,” he confessed.
While pundits were a bit surprised that Kuldeep didn’t find a place in the Test team, the chinaman bowler says that there was no place for a third spinner in the ranks after R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on foreign soil.
“Yes, I would be lying if I say that I didn’t feel disappointed to miss the bus, but then, that is a part of every sportsperson’s journey. You also need to realise that the team already had two master-class spinners in Ashwin bhai and Jaddu (Jadeja) bhai. So, I went to South Africa with a clear mind and looking to make the most of the opportunities that I would get. To be fair, I didn’t think that we (Chahal and him) would get the kind of purchase that we did. I enjoyed bowling on those wickets and I think the numbers speak for themselves. I only looked at expressing myself in the middle,” he revealed.
Done with the tour of South Africa, the next challenge is England and Kuldeep feels the team will do well even there under the leadership of Kohli. “Kohli bhai leads by example. His aggression rubs off on all of us and that is why this team has the ‘never-say-die’ attitude. I am confident that we as a team will produce another good performance there. But before that, I am looking forward to bowling against Kohli bhai and Mahi bhai in the IPL,” he signed off with a smile.
Ronaldo is a predatory striker and it’s only normal when he scores : Messi
London :Barcelona attacker Lionel Messi isn’t surprised by Cristiano Ronaldo’s recent Serie A scoring streak for Juventus as he praised the striker’s ability to find the back of the net.
Ronaldo has scored in 11 straight league games for his Italian club despite turning 35 this month and has an impressive 24 goals to his name this season.
Messi, meanwhile, has gone four matches without a goal but has contributed six assists in his three most recent appearances for the Catalans.
Though both players have always been prolific in front of goal, Messi believes Ronaldo has made scoring his obsession and isn’t surprised to see the Portuguese star continue to fire in the final third.
“It’s normal that he continues to score, he is a predatory striker, he loves to score, any day he plays he will score,” Messi told Mundo Deportivo when asked about Ronaldo’s recent performances.
“He has many good attributes as a forward and at the minimum he converts.”
Messi himself has struck 14 times across just 19 La Liga games this season for Barcelona as he also shows he still has an eye for goal at the age of 32.
Former teammate Carles Puyol recently backed the Argentina attacker to play on until he’s 38, with Messi himself admitting he’s feeling good despite his advancing age.
“The reality is that one is turning years old and does not know, but I feel very good, better than in previous years, and that I am not making goals, but on a physical level and legs I feel very good,” he said.
Asked if he could play on until he’s 40, Messi replied: “We will see, we will see.”
Barcelona are currently one point shy of Real Madrid in the race for the La Liga title this season and Messi believes the battle for first will go down to the wire.
“It is true that it is a year that in the league both Madrid and we are being very irregular, where we lost many points and in that sense I think we will be fighting until the end and that the league does not end after El Classico, whatever happens,” Messi said.
“There will be important matches. We have hard outings and they do too.
“Afterwards, it is true that if we want to qualify for the Champions League we have to continue growing a lot, because I think that today it is not enough for us to fight for the Champions League.”
Simona Halep survives Ons Jabeur scare to advance in Dubai
Top seed Simona Halep survived an early scare and saved a match point to beat Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 1-6 6-2 7-6(7) in the last 16 of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday.
Romanian Halep, playing her first match since a semi-final exit at the Australian Open, was rusty in the opening set as Jabeur got off to a flier and the Romanian was visibly frustrated.
However, the world number two bounced back to take the opening three games of the second set and rediscovered her touch from the baseline with powerful groundstrokes that forced Jabeur into errors.
The third set was tight and went to a tiebreak in which Jabeur saved three match points, and created one of her own, before Halep converted her fourth match point to advance to the quarter-finals.
“It was a very tough match, she played really well,” Halep said in a post-match interview. “Congrats to her, I was a little bit lucky to win tonight.
“First match after a long time, (it) is tough to play. I gave everything I had, I just wanted to win the match. I didn’t give up (on) any point, I’m really proud that I fought till the end.”
While Jabeur hit 26 winners to Halep’s 10, her unforced error count of 41 and five double faults proved decisive.
On the other side of the draw, second seed Karolina Pliskova needed only 67 minutes to advance with a 6-1 6-2 victory over Kristina Mladenovic.
Australian Open finalist and ninth seed Garbine Muguruza, who knocked out Kim Clijsters in the first round, beat Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 7-5 4-6 6-4.
Elena Rybakina, who knocked out Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, brushed aside Katerina Siniakova 6-3 6-3 to book a quarter-final clash with Pliskova
FC Goa create history, become first Indian club to enter AFC Champions
Mumbai :Creating history , FC Goa became the first Indian club to enter the group stage of the 2021 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League. FC Goa achieved the remarkable feat after routing Jamshedpur FC 5-0 in an Indian Super League match in Jharkhand’s Jamshedpur.
FC Goa’s 2021 AFC Champions League entry was guaranteed after they beat Jamshedpur FC to end as the top team of the ISL league stage. The club from Goa finished the league phase with 39 points after 18 matches and claimed the ISL League Winners Shield. Their closest rival ATK are second with 33 points and one match left to play. Even if ATK win their last match, they will end up with only 36 points.
AFC Champions League is Asia’s most prestigious club competition where the top teams from the continent and Australia face each other for the trophy. While Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have featured in the Asian Club Championships but FC Goa are the first team from the country to play in AFC Champions League group stage. AFC Champiosn League started in 2002.
Till now, the team winning the I-League gained entry into the play-off rounds of AFC Champions League, but no Indian club has ever qualified for the group stage. With the ISL having been recognised as the top-tier league in the country by the All India Football Federation, its top team in the league phase will represent India in the prestigious AFC Champions League.
Under Asian Football Confederation’s member association ranking system issued in November 2019, India has been allotted one slot in the expanded AFC Champions League as the country occupied eighth spot in the West Zone.
The member associations ranked 7th to 10th in both West and East Zones get one direct slot in the group stage of the AFC Champions League which will have 40 clubs in the 2021 edition instead of 32 earlier FC Goa also became the first-ever side to record 50 ISL league match wins.
They also broke their own goal-scoring record, ending the league stage with 46 goals — an all-time high. Jamshedpur, on the other hand, finished their season at eighth spot in the 10-team league with 18 points.
With the top spot and an AFC Champions League group stage entry at stake, FC Goa started the game on a positive note. For FC Goa the scorers against Jamshedpur FC were Ferran Corominas (11th), Hugo Boumous (70th and 90th), Jackichand Singh (84th) and Mourtada Fall (87th).
There were no signs of complacency and it took the visitors just 10 minutes to break the deadlock. Boumous initiated a counter-attack for his team after Mobashir Rahman missed his kick from a Jamshedpur corner. The FC Goa midfielder set Corominas free into open space and with the Jamshedpur defence caught unawares, the striker executed a fine finish into the net past goalkeeper Rafique Ali.
The tempo of the game was slower after the restart. Ahmed Jahouh nicked the ball off Monroy in midfield and fed Corominas who charged at the defence. The striker laid the ball off for Doungel whose shot had to be deflected by Memo Moura. Boumous, who has been in supreme form this season, scored the much-needed second goal in the 70th minute.
He dribbled into the box from the centre, found Doungel to his left who chipped the ball right back into the path of the in-form attacker who smashed the ball into the net from six yards out.
With Jamshedpur looking tired, FC Goa added three more goals towards the end of the game to script a brilliant finish. Boumous picked up his 10th assist of the season with a good through-ball for Jackichand who lobbed the goalkeeper and found the net.
Minutes later, a chipped cross from the left flank by Edu Bedia found Fall who nodded the ball into the net to make it 4-0. Then, Boumous picked up the ball from the left flank, dribbled towards the byline, beating a couple of defenders in the process, and found the net from a narrow angle to score FC Goa’s fifth goal.