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Kohli or not, beating India ultimate: Simmons




New Delhi:Phil Simmons, the Afghanistan cricket team coach, said the unavailability of some top India players will not lessen the importance of the one-off Test between the two sides in June, which will also be Afghanistan’s first Test. Simmons added that if Afghanistan win, no one can undermine their feat, with the five-day format being the pinnacle of cricket.

“If India play Afghanistan and Afghanistan win the Test, nobody will say Kohli wasn’t there, Cheteshwar Pujara wasn’t there or (Ajinkya) Rahane wasn’t there. It’s India’s choice what they do with their players,” said Simmons in an interview on the sidelines of the launch of Afghan Premier League.

“If we win, we have beaten India. We will take that.”


India face their toughest assignment this year when they travel to England for five Tests, three ODIs and as many T20s in June. Keeping that in mind, Test specialists like Murali Vijay and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane will all land in England a little earlier in order to acclimatise to the conditions.

Kohli will play for Surrey in the Division One of English county in June while Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma, both of whom went unsold at the IPL 2018 auctions, are currently playing for Yorkshire and Sussex, respectively. The India captain, who managed 134 runs in 10 innings during the England tour in 2014, had expressed his desire to prepare well before the start of the tour.

“Playing county cricket will help me improve my game. It’s just about giving yourself more opportunity to get used to the conditions that you are not used to,” Kohli had said.

The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) on Friday confirmed that the inaugural five-team Afghan Premier League will be played in October in the UAE. The tournament will most likely be played in Sharjah. As in the IPL, each team will field seven Afghan and four overseas players.

“Asked about the ACB initiative, Simmons said: “It’s a huge step. It shows they are looking forward to be a big player in cricketing world. To take an initiative like this shows they have an ambition, they want better teams for their players.

“Rashid (Khan) just came out from nowhere. Same goes with Mujeeb (Zadran). Luckily, Afghanistan has this league now and a lot of people from around the world are going to watch the young players. They (young players) might be found sooner than Rashid and Mujeeb. We might have a 15-year-old coming and making his mark.”

Asked who all he wants to see in the tournament, he said: “We know Indian players might not be available, which is understandable. It would be nice to see some big T20 names like Chris Gayle, David Miller participate.”



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




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




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




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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