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Kohli maintains top spot in ICC Test rankings

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Dubai: India captain Virat Kohli has maintained his top spot, Cheteshwar Pujara returned to top five while Jasprit Bumrah achieved a career-high ranking of 33 in the latest ICC Test rankings for batsmen and bowlers.

Pujara’s knocks of 123 and 71 were the cornerstone of India’s victory in the opening Test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval. Pujara has now moved ahead of Joe Root and David Warner in fourth position. He trails third-ranked Smith by 55 points, and leads Root by 39 points.

India fast bowler Bumrah has achieved a career-high ranking of 33rd, after his three for 47 and three for 68 at Adelaide helped him to rise five places.

 

Kane Williamson has become the first New Zealand batsman and 32nd overall to break the 900-point barrier in the ICC Player Rankings for Test Batsmen following a stellar performance in the third Test against Pakistan, which helped his side to win their first away series in 49 years.

Williamson scored 89 and 139 in Abu Dhabi last week, which set up New Zealand’s convincing 123-run victory over Pakistan.

This performance not only helped Williamson to win the Player of the Match award, but also earn 37 points in the latest player rankings, which, in turn, has allowed him to leapfrog Australia’s Steve Smith into second position on a career-high 913 points.

As a result, Kohli has conceded 15 points to slip to 920 points, just seven points ahead of Williamson.

With Williamson breathing down Kohli’s neck, the India captain will be under pressure to perform strongly with the bat in the second Test starting in Perth from Friday otherwise he will potentially lose his number-one ranking he has been holding since the Edgbaston Test against England in August.

While Williamson shone with the bat in Abu Dhabi and was richly rewarded, number-one ranked Kohli managed only three and 34 in his side’s impressive 31-run victory over Australia at the Adelaide Oval.

The other two notable movers from the Adelaide Test are Ajinkya Rahane in 17th (up by two places) and Mitchell Starc in 16th (up by two places).

Amongst the newcomers, Australia’s Marcus Harris has entered in 116th batting position, while amongst the bowlers, off-spinner William Somerville of New Zealand has emerged in 63rd spot and Pakistan fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has popped up in 111th place.


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Australia refuse to tour Pakistan for proposed ODI matches, cite safety concerns

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Melbourne: Australia has turned down Pakistan Cricket Board’s request to play two One Day International (ODI) matches in the country, citing security concerns. The PCB had asked Cricket Australia to play two of the five ODIs, which are slated to be played in UAE, in Pakistan, but security concerns made Cricket Australia decide against the same.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, though the proposal has been rejected by the Australian cricket board, it has assured the PCB that they would be open to the idea in the future.

“We want to see international cricket return to Pakistan – the country has a huge passion for it,” said a CA spokesperson.

 

“However, the safety of our players and support staff is our number one priority and we won’t compromise that. We’ll continue to take advice from a range of government agencies and our own security intelligence and act on this accordingly.”

“At this stage, from an Australia team perspective, we are not contemplating moving our current bilateral-tour arrangements from taking on Pakistan in the UAE, when they host the next series but we do remain open to the idea of playing in the country again. We formally advised the PCB of this position in early January,” he added.

The PCB has in return, declined reports of Australia refusing to tour Pakistan, terming negotiations with Cricket Australia (CA) as currently ‘open and ongoing’.

Australia have not played an away series against Pakistan since 1998 which PCB chairman Ehsan Mani had attempted to address during the former’s recent Test series against the Asian side.

Mani attempted to convince CA chief executive Kevin Roberts to schedule an away series against Pakistan, urging them to follow the lead of Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe who had toured the nation since 2017.

Sri Lanka’s return was hailed as a major boost considering the deadly attack on their players in Lahore in 2009.

Australian ODI captain Aaron Finch and Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja have recently expressed a desire to tour Pakistan, in case the security concerns were addressed.

“Obviously, whatever Cricket Australia tells us, that’ll be the big thing. We’ll leave it to the administrators. They’re pretty good at taking care of us and making sure everything’s safe,” said Khawaja.

“I was born in Pakistan so it won’t be too different for me, but it’s still a while away,” he added.

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Federer ponders over his ‘miraculous’ career after Murray’s early retirement prospect

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London: As the tennis world continued to digest the prospect of Andy Murray`s retirement, an evergreen Roger Federer pondered the “luck” of his longevity on Sunday ahead of his bid for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles.

Murray`s announcement that Melbourne Park could be his last tournament as a professional has made 37-year-old Federer`s career seem all the more miraculous.

Seeking a 21st Grand Slam title and a record seventh in Melbourne, the Swiss will plough into his 20th consecutive Australian Open on Monday with a first round clash against Uzbek Denis Istomin.

 

While suffering an assortment of niggles common to all hardened professionals, Federer`s only major layoff came in 2016, after he tore his meniscus when running a bath for his twin daughters.

It happened a day after losing the Australian Open semi-final to winner Novak Djokovic, but a year later, he was back raising a fifth trophy at the tournament.

While knowing the limits of his body and full of praise for his team for being able to patch him up repeatedly, Federer admitted that fortune had played a part in his longevity.

“I definitely needed a little bit of luck,” he told reporters at Melbourne Park.

“If you look at how unlucky things were with the incident here a few years ago when I ran the bath, I guess the knee, that part of the body was ready to go.

“Could have happened easily in the match against Novak, but it didn`t, maybe because I was warmed up. I have no idea what happened. I think you also need a little bit of luck.”

The 31-year-old Murray has been far less fortunate, with major hip surgery a year ago doing nothing to stop the pain that has driven the Scot to distraction and the brink of retirement.

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Barcelona on lookout for striker after Munir sale: Coach Ernesto

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London: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said that the club were looking to sign a centre forward in the January transfer window after selling Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla.

The league leaders want back-up for Luis Suarez after Sevilla agreed a one-million-euro ($1.15-million) deal to buy Spain international Munir on Friday, leaving the Uruguayan as the only No. 9 at the club, playing between Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele.

“We have to look at it, it`s clear that after Munir`s departure we have a space,” Valverde told reporters on Saturday.

 

“We`ll see if we can sign a player, although we have to take into account the club`s economic conditions. We will see if we can, if someone comes.”

Asked about Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, who has been linked to Barcelona in Spanish media reports, Valverde said: “I can only say the same thing — that he`s a great player, that he`s at another team, that we respect that a lot, etcetera.”

Barcelona are currently leading the La Liga with 40 points, with Atletico Madrid trailing them in second place with 35 points.

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