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We need to play more away games: Chhetri

Monitor News Bureau

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Mumbai : India captain Sunil Chhetri wants the national football team to play more away games this year as it prepares for the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.

Chhetri, who is currently playing for Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League (ISL), feels each and every player who dons the India colours needs to raise his game by a few notches so that coach Stephen Constantine has a headache while picking the team every time.

“We need to play enough matches away. We generally do well at home, but our away record hasn’t been good. We should try to get teams from 16 to 8 (AFC rankings) ranking. It’s difficult to play South Korea and Japan as they don’t want to play us. We should get teams who are better than us and play at their home. This is from the organisation side,” Chhetri told IANS in an interview here.

 

“From the players’ side, we need to improve ourselves, making sure that the competition for the national team increases and it is a big headache for the coach. It should be tough for him to choose the players and whenever that happens he gets the cream,” the 33-year-old said.

India qualified for the Asian Cup by beating Macau in the qualifiers last year in October.

The last time India played in the world’s second-oldest continental football championship was in 2011 under British coach Bob Houghton. Chhetri was an integral part of the team, scoring two goals in the group stages in what was only India’s third appearance.

India did not win a match and bowed out, letting in 13 goals and scoring just three.

Chhetri said India should look to play teams like the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who are also hosting the Asian Cup, on the road.

“We are at the bottom, man. Whoever we get is going to be better than us,” Chhetri said when asked to name the teams they should play friendlies with leading up to the tournament, starting in January next year.

“In 2011, we got No 1, No 3 and No 5 — Australia, South Korea, Bahrain (in the main round). It couldn’t have been worse than that mathematically. This time we got Kyrgyzstan, Macau and Myanmar (in the qualifiers). With due respect to them, it wasn’t very difficult.

“We should aim to play the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Palestine and Lebanon (in the friendlies),” Chhetri said.

There are talks of a four-nation Champions Cup taking place this year in India. Chhetri said the tourney would have no bearing on India’s rankings as it is outside the FIFA dates, but the match practice would do a world of good to India’s preparations.

“Now it’s not about the rankings because we have qualified. Having said that, the arrangements of the groups matter in terms of ranking but keeping all these things aside, playing at home those three-four-nation tournament…
“I hope we get better teams to play against,” he said.

Coming to his club Bengaluru FC, which is at the top of the ISL standings now, Chhetri said it doesn’t have the pressure of expectations and takes one game at a time.

“The motto in our club is to think about the next game — the way we won two Federation Cups and the I-League by taking one game at a time. The motto has not changed,” he said.

Just married to long-time girlfriend Sonam, daughter of former India and Mohun Bagan defender Subrata Bhattacharya, Chhetri signed off tongue-in-cheek, saying he now knows the prices of “onions and tomatoes”.

“The last 10-15 days after marriage… I have enjoyed my time. I think me and Sonam have seen each other for 13 years but we never lived with each other. She was always a tourist wherever I played. Now living together, it’s nice, man. More because, apart from the fact that she is my wife and I love her… we are also very good friends,” he said.

“She understands my job. So there was no need of telling her that I have to come back and sleep and take a nap… everything is nice because she understands. Later in the evening, we watch Netflix. We go for walks. We went to buy grocery the other day and I realised I haven’t taken walks for a long time. I know the rates of onions and tomatoes now (laughs).”


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Ben Stokes sorry for outrageous fluke on day of redemption

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London: His latest apology was to the people of New Zealand for one of the most outrageous sporting flukes that contributed to England winning the Cricket World Cup at the expense of the country of his birth.

Stokes had already broken New Zealand hearts by steering England out of early strife in the final at Lord’s, giving his adopted nation a fighting chance of victory heading into the last over.

His mighty six over midwicket left England needing nine runs to win with three balls left.

 

Smashing the next ball deep into the leg side, he set off to run two and ensure he kept the strike. As he sprinted back to the striker’s end, he dived and stretched his bat out in a desperate bid to reach the crease. The ball, thrown in by Martin Guptill, struck Stokes’ outstretched bat and deflected 90 degrees, rolling all the way to the boundary in front of the famous pavilion at Lord’s.

It was another six for Stokes two ran, as well as four for the boundary. He held up both hands in an apologetic gesture to New Zealand’s players.

“I said to Kane Williamson, ‘I’ll be apologising for that for the rest of my life’,” said Stokes, who was born in Christchurch and moved to England when he was 12.

Yet Stokes, who finished regulation play unbeaten on 84, wasn’t finished there.

He came back out with England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler for the World Cup’s first ever Super Over, required because the match was tied after the regulation 50 overs per side, and struck eight runs in the first four balls. One of them was a boundary.

With the Super Over also tied, England ultimately won using the tiebreaker of boundaries scored. Stokes hit eight of England’s total of 26 and was named man of the match.

“He’s almost superhuman,” England captain Eoin Morgan said.

It felt like a day of redemption at Lord’s for Stokes, often described as the bad boy of English cricket because of a rap sheet that recently included a court case for his involvement in a street brawl in Bristol after a one-day international against the West Indies in September 2017.

Stokes knocked unconscious a man who, according to the England allrounder, was verbally abusing two gay men outside a club.

He was found not guilty by a court of affray in August last year. He was, however, handed an eight-match suspension by the England and Wales Cricket Board and fined 30,000 pounds ($38,000).

“I have already apologised to my teammates, coaches and support staff for the consequences of my actions in Bristol,” Stokes said in a statement issued in December.


“I regret the incident ever happened and I apologize to England supporters and to the public for bringing the game in to disrepute.”

Stokes spent a night in a prison cell in 2011 after being arrested for obstructing a police officer. He apologised but was still sent home for going out drinking with a teammate until the early hours during an England Lions tour of Australia in 2013.

He also missed the Twenty20 World Cup in 2014 after injuring his hand punching a dressing-room locker following a golden duck against the West Indies.

Indeed, Stokes hasn’t had much luck at the T20 worlds. In 2016, he was hit for four straight sixes by Carlos Brathwaite in the last over of the final against West Indies as England slumped to an improbable loss at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

“I thought, ‘I’ve just lost the World Cup’,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

But all is forgiven after what he produced at Lord’s.

“It was almost written in the stars for Ben Stokes,” England batsman Joe Root said. “He’s had such a tough time, I’m so proud of him and pleased for him and his family.”

Stokes said that experience from 2016 meant there was no way he was going to put his hand up to bowl in the Super Over.

“But there was no chance I wasn’t going to bat,” he said.

“It’s fantastic,” he added. “Without the lads in the ODI team and the test team and the support from my family […] that’s all gone now.”

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Kiwis praise team but query ‘cruel’ rules

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London: Heartbroken New Zealanders expressed pride on Monday in the Black Caps’ fighting spirit after defeat to England in the Cricket World Cup final, but also bemusement at the obscure rules that cost them the match.

The Black Caps lost even though scores were tied at the end of both regular play and a Super Over shootout, with England’s superior boundary count giving them victory.

As Kiwi fans absorbed a second straight loss in the tournament decider, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was concentrating on the positives.

 

“That was undeniably an incredible game. I think as a nation we all aged a year in that Super Over,” she posted on social media.

“Congratulations to England. And to the Black Caps, I feel nothing but pride. What a team.”

But her sports minister Grant Robertson questioned the tie-break method.

“What an extraordinary game. Not sure Super Over is the right end,” he tweeted.

“Whatever, NZ you can be so, so proud of this team.”

Former Black Cap Scott Styris labelled governing body the ICC “a joke” over the rules but congratulated both teams on a stunning efforts.

Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming’s one-word reaction to the result was “cruel”, while even the father of England’s Kiwi-born match-winner Ben Stokes felt the Kiwis were hard done by.

Gerard Stokes, a former New Zealand rugby league international who took his son to England as a boy while he pursued his career, said honours were even.

“It’s a shame there has to be a loser,” he told the New Zealand Herald.

“They could have shared the trophy but that doesn’t seem to be how things are done these days.”

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Rift between Kohli and Rohit after WC semi exit? BCCI mulls split captaincy

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Mumbai: Ever since India’s ouster in the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup, there have been a lot of talks about the areas where the team lacked and also how it was too reliant on the duo of skipper Virat Kohli and his deputy Rohit Sharma when it came to scoring runs.

While this has been an area that is also highlighted from the scoring charts of the World Cup, another factor that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is keen to discuss is the idea of split captaincy.

Speaking to IANS, a board functionary said that good teams start preparations immediately after one campaign ends and the biggest result of that is England winning the World Cup on Sunday. So, keeping an eye on the next campaign, India too could look at the option of having Rohit lead the team in the shorter format while Kohli continues in Tests.

 

“This would be the right time for Rohit to take over the mantle of the captaincy in the 50-over format. There has been immense support to the present captain and the management and it is time to plan ahead for the next World Cup and for that the existing ideas and plans need a fresh look. We all know some areas need a relook. Rohit would be the right man for the job,” the functionary said.

But as per the functionary, the biggest concern that has come up post the exit is the talks of different camps and rumours of a rift between the Kohli and Rohit.That could be detrimental for Indian cricket as the team looks to move forward and the matter is set to be discussed when the review meeting takes place with coach Ravi Shastri, captain Kohli and chief selector MSK Prasad in the presence of the Committee of Administrators (CoA).

“You are aware that Vinod Rai (CoA chief) has already mentioned that a review meeting will take place. This will have to be ascertained when the review takes place and it is important to get to the bottom of these rumours,” the functionary added.

While Rai has claimed that a review meeting will take place to assess the performance of the team, there are clearly more problem areas that need immediate attention.

Interestingly, the last time there was a meeting where the CoA members had met the senior players and coach – during the Test against West Indies in Hyderabad last year – Kohli and Rohit’s difference of thought was visible when it came to resting players in the IPL keeping the World Cup in mind.

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