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Nadal’s withdrawal in Paris hands Djokovic top spot





PARIS: Rafael Nadal pulled out of the Paris Masters guaranteeing Novak Djokovic’s return to the world number one spot.

Announcing his withdrawal at a hastily arranged press conference Nadal said: “My abdominal muscles haven’t felt good for the past few days, especially on serve, doctors recommended that I didn’t play.”
Djokovic arrived in Paris knowing that he would regain the top spot he relinquished two years ago if he bettered the Spaniard’s performance at the indoor event he has won four times.

The Wimbledon and US Open champion becomes the first player to start the season outside the top 20 and end up top of the ATP rankings since Marat Safin in 2000.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion had begun his pursuit of the top spot in encouraging fashion with a 7-5, 6-1 defeat of Joao Sousa on Tuesday, his 19th consecutive win.

For Nadal it means delaying his long awaited comeback from injury which has kept him sidelined since the US Open.

Nadal was forced to withdraw from his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro in early September with a knee injury.

The problem also sidelined him for Spain’s Davis Cup semi-final against France, and also from tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai.

“It’s been a difficult year for me in terms of injuries, and so I’d prefer to avoid doing anything drastic,” he told the media minutes before his intended match against compatriot Fernando Verdasco who instead faced — and lost to — Tunisian lucky loser Malek Jaziri.

“It wouldn’t have been good for me nor anyone to return to the court knowing that I wouldn’t be able to play my best.”



17-year-old J&K pacer Rasikh Salam shortlisted for the auction



Srinagar : The IPL governing council released a list of 346 players who are all set to go under the hammer in the IPL auction slated to be held on December 18 in Jaipur. Out of the initial pool of 1003 players, the franchises have shortlisted 227 Indian and 119 overseas players. With teams having retained majority of the players, the auction is likely to be a short affair.

Apart from players from four states, the list includes four players from Jammu and Kashmir. Parveez Rasool made headlines by becoming the first player to represent India at the international level. Apart from Rasool, the 17-year prodigy Rasikh Salam has made it to the shortlisted pool of players with a base price of 20 lakhs.

He caught the limelight earlier this year after he was called for trials by the three-time champions of IPL, Mumbai Indians, largely due to his decent performances in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Despite having no experience in age group cricket Salam was picked for the senior team. He made his debut against Rajasthan and shined for his team in the very second match against mighty Tamil Nadu, taking two crucial wickets. He was later praised by the captain, Parvez Rasool, and Irfan Pathan, who is playing as player cum mentor for J&K, currently.

It is a great moment for the youngster who will be expecting to be picked up by one of the teams. With limited slots available it may be difficult for Salam to make the cut. However, if picked he will get an opportunity to share the dressing room with some of the best players of the world. The fact that Rasikh is shortlisted shows the progress that Jammu and Kashmir have recorded over the past few years.

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Playing top Asian sides key for India, says Chhetri




New Delhi : India must have regular competition against the continent`s top sides if they are to have any hope of taking their game to another level, captain Sunil Chhetri has said ahead of next month`s Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

Since their last appearance at the finals in Qatar in 2011, India have played twice against a top-six Asian side when they were grouped with Iran for the Russia World Cup qualifiers.
Chhetri, who will lead India in just their fourth appearance at the finals, said they had to be given the chance to stretch themselves more.

“It`s very, very important for us to keep playing against the big giants – the UAEs, the Australias, the Korea Republics,” Chhetri told

“It`s one thing to do well against your neighbours, and without demeaning any one of them, it`s a different thing when you go out and play the giants of Asia.”

Cricket-loving India has a population of 1.3 billion but it is a massive underachiever as far as football is concerned. The national side is 97th in the FIFA rankings and yet to make an appearance at the World Cup finals.

The Asian Football Confederation`s (AFC) decision to increase the number of finalists at the Asian Cup to 24 teams from 16 has helped the country return to the tournament.

“I was really dejected when we missed out on the last edition,” Chhetri said of the 2015 tournament in Australia.

“I think it`s very, very important for a country like us to keep qualifying for this big tournament, because that tells you where you are and if you`re doing well.

“It also gives you a chance to rub shoulders with the biggest teams in Asia. If you do well, other teams take notice of you.”

India, managed by English coach Stephen Constantine, are in Group A alongside hosts United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Thailand for the Jan. 5-Feb. 1 tournament and Chhetri is under no illusions about the task facing them.

“Without putting ourselves down, when you`re India and you qualify for the Asian Cup any team that you face are going to be difficult,” said Chhetri, India`s record scorer with 65 goals and their most experienced player with 103 caps.

“In UAE and Thailand we have two teams who are very, very technically gifted. I think even Bahrain are going to be very physical.

“I`m just looking at it as one game at a time. I don`t think we will be thinking about the mathematics of the group from the moment go.”

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Australia need more Lyon-hearted performances in ongoing Test series against India




Washington : In a once-dominant team humbled by a cheating scandal and still racked with doubts about its identity, spinner Nathan Lyon has been a reassuring throwback to an age of hard-bitten Australian cricketers who talked the talk and walked the walk.

After India completed a 31-run victory in the series-opener on Monday, few of captain Tim Paine`s players will report for duty at the Perth second test with enhanced reputations.

Lyon, however, is not one of them as he burnished his stature at Adelaide Oval by anchoring a gritty tail-end push for a final day victory after he had taken eight wickets with the ball.

Australia may have failed in their bid to pull off an unlikely victory, but Lyon ended the match unbeaten on 38 as he ran out of partners at a venue where he wore overalls as a groundsman eight years ago.

A cult hero in Australia, the 31-year-old has been nicknamed the `GOAT` — “Greatest of All Time” — for good reason.

His 326 test wickets is a record for an Australian off-spinner, more than double the 141 taken by Hugh Trumble more than a century ago.

But the man known as “Gazza” to his team mates has become much more than a sum of his statistics, and seems to add a new string to his bow every season.

Last year under captain Steve Smith, who is currently serving a suspension for ball-tampering, Lyon became the team`s unofficial sledger-in-chief in the lead-up to the Ashes.

He first tore into the 2013-14 England team that were whitewashed 5-0 and spoke of “ending careers” in Joe Root`s side on their subsequent tour Down Under in a rant that was denounced widely in British newspapers.

He backed up his words with 21 wickets as Australia thrashed England 4-0 to regain the urn they had relinquished in 2015.

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