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Sarfraz the right man to lead Pakistan: Richards

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Dubai: SARFRAZ Ahmed has received a resounding vote of confidence from Sir Vivian Richards — arguably the greatest cricketer of his era — who urged Pakistan cricket chiefs to keep faith with the doughty wicket-keeper/batsman as national captain for the 2019 World Cup.
In an exclusive interview for Dawn, the West Indies legend — who instilled fear in the hearts of many a bowler with his intimidating style of batting during a glittering international career from 1974 to 1991 — and who is the team mentor of Pakistan Super League franchise Quetta Gladiators, categorically stressed that Sarfraz is the obvious choice as Pakistan captain in all formats.
“When you can win the ICC Champions Trophy out of nowhere then, who else? We didn’t give Pakistan a chance. I can’t see anyone else as the [Pakistan] team leader [in the lead-up to next year’s World Cup],” Richards said.
“Just think of it. To comeback after losing that first game [in the Champions Trophy] against India and beat the same team so comprehensively in the final is a certain mark of improvement. And when you can do and go all the way to the final then the captain should be given a lot of credit he deserves,” he emphasised.
“And to be fair, I believe when I see around in Pakistan, I can’t find anyone who can motivate the players and get the best out of the team. Maybe people might think being so close to Sarfraz at Quetta Gladiators, I am being biased but when I do really think then I feel there is no other guy than Sarfraz.
“The motivating factor Sarfraz brings is tremendous. I love his attitude and the way he goes about his job when the chips are down in trying his best to lift the team. People say he is aggressive but to it one of his attributes in my opinion. To be honest when I see around in the PSL, I don’t see anyone else having the same passion or virtues that Sarfraz possesses,” he continued.
“Even before I came to Quetta Gladiators, I had seen Sarfraz being proactive and always trying to do things differently when he batted and I love the fearlessness in his approach to leadership because he reads the game very well.
“To be fair, Sarfraz will obviously have his bad days [as leader]. People must respect and understand that because he is an individual who wants things to happen; and [in doing so] you, at times, are going to fail,” Richards underlined.
Although Wednesday happened to be Richards’ 66th birthday, the former West Indies skipper expressed his gratitude to the franchise for giving him a wonderful surprise with a party late on Tuesday night at the team’s hotel.
“It was an emotional occasion because apart from the team members, my family was also there to celebrate. We all had a great time. It couldn’t have been better,” Richards said before turning his attention to pay tribute to the franchise.
“Well when you come into an environment it has to be the management basically one looks at first. I know the owner, Nadeem Omar, and head coach Moin Khan whom I have known for quite sometime now but I didn’t play against him. But it is just the sort of camaraderie and the relaxation he [Moin] and the owner have shown has not only made me feel at home but the entire squad. You know it’s just like a family environment we have at Quetta Gladiators,” he remarked.
“The owner is one of the nicest individuals I have met and judging by his hospitality and the way whole team reacts and they are like brothers to him. There’s never an impression that ‘I am the boss and you are the player’ stuff because everyone is treated the same way,” Richards stated.
“It makes me nicer to be working with a great set of people around the Quetta camp. It’s privilege to be here with the Quetta team members and the friendly environment they bring to the table. The spirit within the squad is translated into performances in the field since we back each other and enjoy each other’s success. It looks everyone is so relaxed and that’s what I like about,” he added.


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Ganguly backs Dhawan to shine at ICC World Cup

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Mumbai:There is not a bowler in the world that can stop Shikhar Dhawan when the opener is in determined mood and the left-hander will be crucial to Indias hopes at this years Cricket World Cup, former captain Sourav Ganguly has said.

Dhawan smashed 97 not out off 63 balls in Delhi Capitalsseven-wicket victory against Kolkata Knight Riders in Fridays Indian Premier League (IPL) contest at Eden Gardens, much to the delight of Ganguly, an advisor to the Capitals.

Captain Virat Kohli and his deputy Rohit Sharma are India`s batting mainstays in one-day cricket but Ganguly puts Dhawan, who has 16 centuries from 128 ODIs with a 93-plus strike rate, in the same league.

 

“The three best players in one-day cricket — Dhawan, Rohit, Virat,” Ganguly told the IPL website. “When he (Dhawan) gets set and gets in he`s unstoppable.

“All I expect from him is determination. When he is determined, no bowler in the world can stop him.”

Dhawan`s second fifty of this IPL season, which catapulted Delhi into the top four, augurs well for India ahead of the May 30 to July 14 World Cup in England and Wales.

Along with opening partner Rohit, the onus will be on Dhawan to give India strong starts in the tournament and the southpaw has performed well on English soil.

Named man of the series in their triumphant 2013 Champions Trophy campaign, Dhawan was also the tournament`s leading scorer four years later when India lost in the final to Pakistan.

“If he gets set, he takes the game away. This is how he plays for India,” Ganguly, who led India to the final of the 2003 World Cup, later told reporters. “He`s a class act.”

Two-time champions India begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa in Southampton on June 5.

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Olympique Lyon’s Champions League spot under threat after Nantes defeat

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London: Olympique Lyonnais` Champions League qualifying hopes were hit as they were beaten 2-1 at Nantes in Ligue 1.

Third-placed Lyon, who hold the final Champions League qualifying spot, were undone by Anthony Limbombes late free-kick after Martin Terrier had cancelled out Kalifa Coulibalys opener for Nantes.

Lyon are on 56 points with six games left, six ahead of fourth-placed St Etienne, who play their game in hand at home against Girondins de Bordeaux on Sunday.

 

It was Lyon`s third straight defeat in all competitions after they were knocked out of the French Cup semi-finals by Stade Rennes and lost at home to lowly Dijon in the league last weekend.

The result leaves an even bigger question mark over coach Bruno Genesio`s future, with the club set to make a decision on whether to extend his contract at the end of the season.

With Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay and Marcelo on the bench, Lyon got off to a bad start.

Coulibaly opened the scoring in the 11th minute after collecting a though ball from Majeed Waris.

Lyon were shaken by the hosts but weathered the storm and equalised one minute before the interval when Terrier curled a fine shot into the back of the net to finish off a counter-attack.

Limbombe earned Nantes victory seven minutes from fulltime with an inch-perfect free-kick, lifting the Canaries up to 15th in the table on 34 points.

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Defender Gomez sign two-year contract extension in East Bengal

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Mumbai: East Bengal fans will heave a huge sigh of relief after their star defender Borja Gomes decided to sign a contract extension with the club and not follow Jobby Justin to go out. The Kolkata-based club is in the process of becoming a part of the ISL next season with I-League’s future looking bleak.

East Bengal came agonizingly close to lift the I-League title yet again this season before Chennai City FC eventually won it as the Kolkata club finished second.And with I-League looking to either get dissolved or set to get demoted to the second division, it was important for East Bengal to finish high on the table.

However, that wasn’t enough for the club to retain their star striker Jobby Justin, who signed a pre-contract with two-time ISL champions ATK just after the I-League ended and the Super Cup was in its quarter-final stage. But, the club was quick to react after that setback and on Friday handed a two-year contract extension to Spanish defender Borja Gomez.

 

“East Bengal FC are pleased to announce the renewal of contract with Borja Gomez Perez for the next two seasons,” the club said in a statement.

“According to him, this is the best team and ‘fans are the best in India’,” the statement added.

The Madrid-born La-Liga star, who is nick-named as the ‘Senapati’, was one of the key members for the club last season and has been a motivator for the team both on and off the field. Gomez has previously played for Granada CF, Real Oviedo, Hercules CF, Real Murcia and more before East Bengal had signed him from UD Sanse in January last year.

East Bengal has already announced their bid for ISL in a board meeting and are currently waiting for the terms to get financially acceptable.

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