Johannesburg: Looking to salvage pride in the third Test beginning on Wednesday, team India got down to business at the Wanderers with a practice session that lasted just under four hours.
India had lost the first Test in Cape Town by 72 runs and then were beaten in the second match at Centurion by 135 runs to surrender an unassailable lead.
The players enjoyed three days off after that hurtful loss, taking time to visit various safari and theme parks in and around Johannesburg.
They were back sweating in the nets, in a bid to end this series with their heads held high as the world’s No.1 Test side.
Noticeably, skipper Virat Kohli, who had a fiery press conference in aftermath of the Centurion loss, was in a jovial mood as he chatted around with his teammates and local net bowlers during practice.
After a customary warm-up game of football, the players got down to working on their skill sets.
Fielding coach R Sridhar was the first to put in a serious shift, with Parthiv Patel, KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane working together as the slip cordon. Later, Rohit Sharma and Dinesh Karthik joined in as the trio moved to batting nets.
On practice wickets, Rahul, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara took first strike against the net-bowling duo of Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini, who were confirmed arrived at the team hotel late on Saturday evening.
The nets were arranged as pacers, throw-downs and spinners respectively, and Pujara duly smacked the local spinner for what can only be described as two sixes.
Vijay and Rahul also opened up in the spin-bowling nets and hit a few big shots. Prominently, Vijay hit Ravindra Jadeja out of the park and then was bowled the very next ball, with a bit of cheeky banter between the two.
R Ashwin bowled to them in the same nets as well. Rahul suffered a blow to his left knee during the first stint and put an ice pack on it. He batted again though, shrugging off any worries for the moment.
Interestingly enough, Rahane – left out of the playing XI for the first two Tests – padded up next and lined up along with Kohli and Hardik Pandya in what could be the suggestive middle-order in the coming third Test.
While the allrounder opened up with some big hits as per his natural style of play, both Kohli and Rahane looked solid against pacers. When they batted, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami even bowled with new Kookaburra balls.
Vijay, Pujara, Rahul, Kohli and Rahane had double stints in the batting nets. They took turns; whilst Vijay, Rahul and Pujara batted, Kohli and Rahane loitered around for a while before taking up turns against pacers and throw-downs again.
Dinesh Karthik later batted in tandem with Kohli, while Rahane finished up last against throw-downs from assistant coach Sanjay Bangar.
In the interim, Rohit – along with Shikhar Dhawan – was among the last group of batsmen to take strike. Patel batted ahead of Karthik in the roster order and worked on facing the short-ball with Pandya assisting him with throw-downs from a shortened distance.
East Bengal, FC Barcelona explore possibility of tie-up
Mumbai: East Bengal and Barcelona are exploring to establish and association between India’s premier football club and the LaLiga giants. Senior officials from the two clubs have met at the Quess House in Bengaluru to explore the possibilities of the proposed tie-up. The meeting was facilitated by Rakuten.
Bengaluru-based Quess controls the East Bengal football team,
FC Barcelona’s principal sponsor and global innovation partner, Rakuten is reportedly advising the LaLiga defending champions to expand their market worldwide. India can be one of the priority destinations for the club as LaLiga is already exploring the possibilities in the huge Indian sports market.
East Bengal has a Spanish connection. Coach Alejandro Menendez has been a former Real Madrid youth academy coach and East Bengal has extended his contract for two years. The club is reportedly willing to recruit a few more players from Spain next season.
Association with top international clubs is not unprecedented for Indian football clubs. East Bengal in the past has had a tie-up with Premier League side Leicester City, whereas another I-League team Minerva Punjab have recently signed an MoU with Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach. Chennai City FC had also partnered with Swiss club FC Basel.
Quess had announced on Wednesday that they are exploring the possibility of a tie-up FC Barcelona.
East Bengal FC chairman Ajit Isaac said that the city-based team is keen on being part of the Japanese company’s expansion plans via Lionel Messi’s club, adds national daily .
“Senior officials of the Spanish giants, FC Barcelona and Quess East Bengal Football Club team, met to explore the possibility of an association between the two clubs. The meeting facilitated by Rakuten, the global innovation partner and sponsor of FC Barcelona, was held at Quess House in Bengaluru. Rakuten is incidentally advising FCB on expanding its footprint worldwide,” Isaac has stated on East Bengal’s social media platform.
A likely deal between the two clubs will also boost the growth of Indian football.
‘Pogba doesn’t want to be at Man Utd’
London: Paul Pogba does not want to be at Manchester United, claims Gary Neville, with transfer talk and the influence of his agent, Mino Raiola, leading the Real Madrid-linked midfielder to have his head turned.
Questions have been asked of the Frenchman’s future throughout the 2018-19 campaign.
Struggles under Jose Mourinho sparked the exit rumours, with there seemingly no way that both men could continue working together at Old Trafford.
A change in the dugout delivered an initial reversal in fortune for United and Pogba, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reigniting the spark in a talismanic figure.
The 26-year-old has, however, endured another dip and Neville believes his days in England could now be numbered, with his focus shifting amid reports of interest being shown from afar.
“I think he is world class,” former Red Devils defender Neville told Sky Sports.
“I don’t think he wants to be here, that’s his problem.
“I think his agent’s into him.
“I said two, three months ago when he was brilliant, he’s done brilliantly for Ole, by the way, he’s scored I think 11 goals, seven assists, but I honestly thought a couple of months ago we sat in this studio at the Liverpool game and everything was brilliant about Paul Pogba and I said ‘I believe that it will resurface, the issues will resurface’.
“We know his agent, we know the influence he has on him, we know that Pogba has got his head turned by other clubs and he’s playing like somebody who’s had his head turned.
“He’s playing like somebody who doesn’t quite want to be here.
“The problem is if a player doesn’t want to be at a club and he has the influence that I think he has in the dressing room, I think the likes of [Jesse] Lingard, [Marcus] Rashford, [Anthony] Martial, I think they do come off him.
“And I think if he’s not quite at it and not raring to go, then it is a problem, it is a massive problem.”
Pogba is tied to a contract with United through to 2021, with that agreement including a 12-month extension option.
What I am learning from Ponting, Ganguly will use during WC: Dhawan
Mumbai: India opener Shikhar Dhawan has said he is learning a lot from legends like Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly and would appropriately use that knowledge during the 50-over World Cup, starting May 30 in the UK.
Dhawan is currently playing in the IPL for Delhi Capitals, coached by former Australia skipper Ponting while former India captain Ganguly is associated with the franchise as advisor.
“Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly…I am very fortunate that I am working with them now. They both have been great leaders. It is very good to be close to them because I can get their insight, know what was their mindset, what was their approach when they used to play or captain their sides,” explained Dhawan, who has scored 5,355 runs in 128 ODIs.
“I am already learning so many things from them (and) it is helping me. I am grateful (for) that. I am sure those things are helping me in the IPL and I am going to take it to the World Cup,” he added.
Dhawan, meanwhile, also heaped praises on his Delhi Capitals teammate Prithvi Shaw, saying he is the next big thing in Indian cricket. “So Prithvi, I would say it is a very big achievement to play for India at the age of 19, especially India is a dominating country for batsmen (and there are) lots of batsmen, so someone coming in at 19 is a big achievement and he has done very well for the Indian team.
“He is a very talented boy and I am sure he is going to do wonders for our country,” the dashing left-handed batsman said after being roped in as the brand ambassador of lubricants firm–GS Caltex India–at a function here on Wednesday night.
Shaw had shone on his Test debut against the West Indies at Rajkot last year.
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