Chandigarh :When the I League defending champions Minerva Punjab FC open their campaign in this year’s I League against Churchill Brothers at Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula,, the Punjab team will only have 11 players from the last year’s title winning squad. With foreign players Chencho Gyeltshen, who was the third highest goal-scorer last season, Kassim Aidera, Bazie Armand and Eric Dano coupled with Indian players like Gagandeep Bali and Sukhdev Singh joining other clubs, it’s like a new start for the Punjab outfit.
“Yes, there will be pressure on us. But then that’s what has been the plan for Minerva Punjab FC in the two seasons. Some big names have left but they became stars after coming to Minerva Punjab FC. And that’s what the focus will be for this year’s I league too. Every player has the hunger to represent the club and this hunger motivates them. As the technical director, I want to see these players play at Asian level and for the country in future. They know that if they beat us, it will be huge for them and such wins count special for the opposition. And that’s why we also need to play our best game. We won the Punjab Super league for the first time and it also helped us to try out the combinations,” said Paul Munster, technical director of Minerva Punjab FC after the jersey launch of the club in Chandigarh.
The Daun village-based club finished ninth in their maiden I League season in 2016-17 before winning the title in January this year. Minerva Punjab FC claimed the title with 11 wins in 18 matches in the 10-team league. Bhutanese forward Chencho Gyeltshen was the leading scorer for the team with seven goals apart from William Opoku scoring six goals in the league. This year’s I League will see the participation of 11 teams and Minerva Punjab FC will attempt to become the first team to win successive titles since East Bengal achieved the feat in 2004. Apart from recruiting Indian U-17 World Cup team players Md Shahjahan and Nongdamba Naorem, the team has also got the presence of Japanese player Yu Kuboki, who signed with the club after a transfer from Australian club Sydney Olympic FC. The team will play 10 matches at Tau Devi Lal Stadium. While last year’s head coach Khogen Singh also left the club, Sachin Badhadhe has now donned the role of head coach.
“We have got the depth for playing consistently in the 11-team format. There are no stars in the team but we rely on combinations and exploiting the weakness of opponents. The squad of 27 players also sees the presence of players like Japanese Yu Kuboki apart from foreign recruits Nsabimana Aimable apart from last year’s sixth-highest scorer William Opoku. The Indian youngsters too are eager to perform well and with goal-keeper Arshdeep Singh being fully fit, we will rely heavily on him. The U-17 World Cup team-members also bring some young talent in the team and we will take it one match at a time in the league. The first two matches against Churchill Brothers and Real Kashmir FC will crucial for us as it would set the momentum for us,” Badhadhe said.
The Punjab outfit has also roped in former JCT coach and player Sukhwinder Singh as the technical director. Singh was the coach of the JCT team which won the inaugural edition of I league in 1996-1997. “Minerva Punjab FC has been the best thing which has happened with Punjab Football after JCT won in 1996-1997 season. Punjab has got the talent and the way Minerva Punjab FC tapped the talent and won the title last year speaks volumes about the club. When JCT won the title, we too saw a lot of players like Bhaichung Bhutia, IM Vijayan and others opting to play for other clubs in the next season. But we had a talent of 40-45 players who played for India. We won the federation the next year and we need to produce such talents in Punjab. It will be difficult to defend the title but the Minerva Punjab FC has the strength to do it,” said Singh.
Shakib tops ICC ODI all-rounders list
Dubai: Senior Bangladesh cricketer Shakib Al Hasan Wednesday jumped to the top of the latest MRF Tyres ICC ODI rankings for all-rounders, which doesn’t feature a single Indian in the top-10 chart.
Shakib, 32, grabbed the top spot just ahead of the ODI World Cup after showcasing fine form during the tri-nation series in Ireland, which Bangladesh famously won to claim their first title in a multi-nation tournament.
In the three matches of the series, Shakib totalled 140 runs, including two unbeaten half-centuries and also picked up two wickets.
Shakib now has 359 points, 20 clear of Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, the previous holder of the top ranking, who has now slipped to No. 2.
Rashid’s Afghanistan team-mate Mohammad Nabi completes the top three, with 319 points.
Pakistan are the only other team to have two players in the top 10, with Imad Wasim at No. 4 and Mohammad Hafeez claiming the seventh spot.
They are separated by New Zealand’s Mitchell Santner (No.5) and England’s Chris Woakes, who leapfrogged four places to No. 6.
West Indies captain Jason Holder is their top-ranked all-rounder at number eight spot followed by Zimbabwe’s Sikandar Raza and Angelo Mathews of Sri Lanka.England’s Ben Stokes missed out on the top 10 by one spot, finishing eight points behind Mathews.
Kedar Jadhav, who is part of India’s World Cup team and is recovering from a shoulder injury, is the best-placed Indian at joint 12th spot alongside South Africa’s Andile Phehlukwayo and Moeen Ali of England.
Hardik Pandya completes the top 20 list.
‘Kohli cannot single-handedly win World Cup 2019’: Sachin
New Delhi: Stacking up staggering numbers with monotonic regularity may have become a day job for Virat Kohli, but he alone can in “no way” win a World Cup without support from his teammates, feels Sachin Tendulkar.
In an exclusive interview with the PTI, Tendulkar spoke about a range of topics including Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal’s role, the contentious No. 4 slot and how flat pitches in England is taking bowlers out of the equation.
“I think you will always have a couple of individuals stepping up every game but without team support, you can’t do much. Just because of one individual, you can’t win a tournament. No way. Unless others chip in at every crucial stage. If that doesn’t happen, there will be a disappointment,” Tendulkar said when asked if Kohli will carry the same burden like he did, specifically during 1996, 1999 and 2003 editions.
Tendulkar is hardly worried that India doesn’t have a settled No. 4, saying the slot can be kept flexible as per requirement and match situation.
“I think we have batsmen, who can do the job. Number four is just a number and it can be adjusted. I particularly don’t see No 4 as a problem. Our boys have played enough cricket to know their roles whether it is No 4, 6 or 8. Situational awareness is the key,” the world’s highest run-getter in Tests and ODIs said.
However, Tendulkar is not entirely happy with how the balance of ODIs is skewed towards batsmen, taking bowlers out of the equation in white ball cricket with every passing day.
“It’s become one-sided with the introduction of two new balls and flat pitches have made lives of bowlers much more difficult. One team is scoring 350 and the other is chasing down inside 45 overs,” Tendulkar said in reference to recent England versus Pakistan series where bowlers had a nightmarish time.
What Tendulkar finds even more disappointing is that reverse swing had been taken out of the equation with two new balls.
“The ball is staying hard. I mean when was the last time you saw a reverse swing in ODIs?” questioned the iconic batsman.
“When we played and there was one new ball, it would start reversing from 28th or 30th over. Some teams could get it to reverse even earlier. At the death, the ball would go soft, even get discoloured. These were challenges that batsmen faced. But now the ball remains hard and the bats are getting better,” lamented Tendulkar, who played six World Cups.
Quality of the balls (white kookaburra in question) has also become a factor, felt Tendulkar, who sees no lateral movement on flat tracks to challenge the batsmen.
What’s the solution then? He responded: “I think some thought needs to go into this. Either prepare helpful tracks if you have two new balls so that there is some help up front. Or else go back to the old one new ball system which aids reverse swing. Whatever but do something for the bowlers.”
According to him, wrist spinners are the one breed of bowlers who will do well, and India have two in Kuldeep and Chahal.
The Australians read the duo quite well during the home series in India but the maestro said that it won’t matter much in England.
“Let’s understand this. There are a number of bowlers who have been read well by batters but yet they end up getting a lot of wickets. So Kuldeep and Chahal shouldn’t be too worried about Australia series,” he said, adding both will play a massive role during the middle overs.
“Agreed the Aussies read them well but does that mean they wouldn’t be committing mistakes or can’t be forced to commit mistakes.”
Messi, Sergio Aguero in Argentina preliminary Copa America Squad
Lionel Messi and the returning Sergio Aguero headed a 33-man list as Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni named an enlarged preliminary Copa America squad on Wednesday.
Paris Saint Germain winger Angel Di Maria was also included but there was no place for striker Gonzalo Higuain, who is on loan at Chelsea from Juventus. “These are the ones we consider to be the best,” said Scaloni, who will have to reduce his list to 23 players next week ahead of the tournament hosted by Brazil, which begins on June 14.
Argentina will play in Group B alongside Colombia, Paraguay and guests Qatar, the 2022 World Cup hosts and current Asian champions.
Messi, who only returned to the Argentina squad in March after an eight-month absence following the World Cup in Russia, will turn 32 during the competition.
Di Maria, like Messi, made his post-World Cup return in March ahead of friendlies against Venezuela and Morocco, but Aguero had not been called up since Argentina’s 4-3 last 16 defeat to eventual champions France in Russia.
Argentina have not won the Copa America, or any major international tournament, since 1993, losing in the final in four of the last five editions of the continental showpiece.
Goalkeepers: Agustin Marchesin, Juan Musso, Franco Armani, Esteban Andrada, Geronimo Rulli
Defenders: German Pezzel, Gabriel Mercado, Juan Foyth, Nicolas Otamendi, Walter Kannemann, Nicolas Tagliafico, Marcos Acuna, Gonzalo Montiel, Renzo Saravia, Lisandro Martinez, Ramiro Funes Mori
Midfielders: Leandro Paredes, Angel Di Maria, Guido Rodriguez, Giovani Lo Celso, Manuel Lanzini, Roberto Pereyra, Matias Zaracho, Ivan Marcone, Domingo Blanco, Rodrigo De Paul, Exequiel Palacios, Maximiliano Meza
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Martinez, Paulo Dybala, Angel Correa, Lautaro Martinez, Dario Benedetto, Matias Suarez, Mauro Icardi.
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