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Thursday, May 28, 2009

India are favourites for T20 World Championships: Kumble

Anil Kumble on Thursday tipped defending champions India to retain the title at the World T20 Championships, starting in England on June 5, saying they have the most balanced side and the potential to emerge winners again.

"In my opinion India have the best balanced side. If they play to their potential they will lift the Cup again. It's a fantastic side and all the players in the team showed good form in the IPL. Playing at home England are strong while New Zealand and Australia also look good. It will be a most competitive tournament", the former India skipper said here.

Kumble, who launched the new Castrol Index as part of its cricket website, dismissed fears that the Indian players would be jaded after the tour of New Zealand followed immediately by the 35-day IPL in South Africa in the run-up to the World T20.

"It was known beforehand that there was just a week's gap between the two events. As an international player it's up to you to maintain your fitness," the retired leg spin ace said when queried whether the fatigue factor, touched upon by team coach Gary Kirsten during the IPL, could be a concern.

Kumble rated the Indian bowling attack as well rounded, strong in the pace department and well supported by spinners Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha.

"In all formats having various options is good. It's specially true about the shorter format of the game," he said.

Kumble, who took over the reins of the struggling Bangalore Royal Challengers in the IPL from Kevin Pietersen of England and brought about a dramatic turn-around in the team's fortunes by leading it to the final against Deccan Chargers, said he expected wicket conditions to be similar in England.

"The wickets in South Africa were on the slower side and I expect the wickets in England too to be similar, though perhaps helping the seamers a bit more," said India's highest wicket-taker in Test cricket.

He also brushed aside concerns over the indifferent form of Delhi Daredevils and India's opening duo of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir in the IPL ahead of the T20 event in England.

"Viru was back in form in the semi final with a fifty and I expect Gautam Gambhir always to do well in England," he said.

Admitting that it was perhaps a bit difficult for the International Cricket Council currently to carve out a window for the IPL, Kumble was optimistic this can be done once the ongoing Future Tours Programme of the world body runs out in 2012.

"IPL is a month and a half long and it may be difficult now. May be the ICC can look into it after the FTP ends in 2012 and work out an opening," he said.

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Zaheer to leave for England with India team: Sources

Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, is set to leave with the India's Twenty20 squad for the World Cup in England, BCCI sources said on Thursday.

"The team is set to leave tomorrow. If there was anything about it (concerns over Zaheer's fitness) we would have let it be known to the media," BCCI sources said.

Doubts had cropped up about Zaheer's availability for the World Championship when he stayed back in South Africa after the conclusion of IPL for a treatment to his injury.
Zaheer, who played for the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, suffered the injury on his bowling shoulder while diving to stop a drive off Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman Robin Uthappa in Johannesburg.

He underwent a scan that indicated some inflammation and the team management said the injury was not as serious as was thought before the scan. But he did not take part in the remaining matches of Mumbai Indians.

The left-arm pacer, who was not a part of the triumphant squad that clinched the title in the inaugural edition two years ago in South Africa, has emerged as chief wrecker for
India in the recent series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

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Sahara's Roy to meet Man Utd officials on June 5

If all goes well, the chief sponsor of the Indian cricket team could also be sponsoring the world's richest soccer club. Sahara India, the Subrata Roy led multi-business conglomerate with a turnover of more than Rs 90,000 crores is in advance talks to replace American International Group (AIG) as the premier jersey sponsor of the English champions.

A Sahara official confirmed that his chief will be in London on June 5 to talk to club officials about a possible deal. "The chairman is going to London on June 5 to finalise the deal. We think that if we can sponsor such a huge club it will give an opportunity for Indian footballers to play as well," he said.

AIG's four-year $56.5 million agreement with the club is the biggest shirt sponsorship deal in English football. It ends in May 2010 and the American company has already said it will not renew it as it recovers from the global financial crisis.

The amount of the deal with Sahara may go up to as much as $100 million for five years, near double of their existing deal with AIG. The Sahara deal might well be beneficial to United, who can add on to their existing fan base across Asia. The source said that might just clinch the deal for Sahara. "Apart from the Asian market, they can expand their fan base in India which is a huge market for them."

But there are other issues as well. It is believed that while United can cash in on the Asian market with a Sahara logo on the T-shirts, Old Trafford officials fear of losing out on a more global audience.

The other hassle for them is the revenue sharing. "This will be one of the major points of discussion when the two sides meet," the source said.

Another Indian company, infrastructure based group GMR was also linked to a sponsorship of English club Liverpool. British newspaper 'News of the World' had reported towards the end of April that GMR owner Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao may take over the club for £450 million (around Rs 3,300 crore). However, GMR subsequently denied the move.

Two other Indian groups, the Tatas and telecom major Bharti Airtel are also in the loop for the Manchester United sponsorship deal. However, Airtel, who recently signed a multi-million-dollar deal with the English champions for mobile phone content, said they would not bid for the T-shirt sponsorship.

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Ronaldo blasts Ferguson's tactics to counter Messi and company

Manchester United's star striker Cristiano Ronaldo has criticized club manager Alex Ferguson's tactics in the Champions League final here, saying they were not good enough to neutralise Barcelona's front line led by Argentine star Lionel Messi.

United lost to Barcelona 2-0, ending their dream of becoming the first team to win two consecutive Champions League crowns.

Leo Messi won his personal duel against Ronaldo as he headed in Barca's second.

Ronaldo risked Fergie's wrath by saying: "We didn't do well. The tactics were not good and everything went wrong for us. We were only in it for 10 minutes and we never found ourselves again.".

According to The Sun, Ronaldo's rant could cast further doubt on his United future with Real Madrid desperate to land the Portuguese winger this summer.

Ferguson blamed his defence after goals from Samuel Eto'o and Messi stunned United.

Fergie also believes some of his players will feel they let themselves down on the night.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How Gilly's gang did it

Gilchrist energy, batting prowess and cricketing acumen fuelled his team's charge. He was a friend first and then a leader. He ensured that veteran VVS Laxman and the upcoming star Rohit Sharma were both at ease. Being appointed captain for the full season gave Gilchrist a sense of ownership unlike probably in the first year when he took over from Laxman. After rarely tasting defeat while playing for Australia, Gilly, smarting after finishing last in Season One was determined than ever before to inculcate a winning culture in the team.

Indians shining
The Chargers benefited as their young Indian players clicked. RP Singh was coming off an injury but bowled beautifully and took 23 wickets and won the Purple Cap. Pragyan Ojha, the 22-year-old left-arm spinner, bowled with precision to end up with 18 wickets. Rohit Sharma, the vice-captain of the side, made it count with both the bat and the ball. He took a hat-trick and also won matches off his own bat. Sharma made 362 runs, a good number of them in the death when the team was chasing an unlikely victory.

Smart buys
Ryan Harris signed a contract with the team in late 2008. A Redbacks teammate of Darren Lehman, Harris was picked following the coach's recommendation. Harris bowled with a lot of heart and added to the batting depth of the side. Also the team management made two smart buys during the second auction. They acquired two West Indian players, Fidel Edwards and Dwayne Smith, for $150,000 and $100,000 respectively. While Smith pulled his weight it was Edwards, with the new ball, who struck telling blows in the early part of the tournament.

Super Symo
Andrew Symonds is that kind of a player whose mere presence in the line-up can deflate the confidence of the opposition. After flying in after the one-day series against Pakistan, Symonds made 60 off 36 balls against Kings XI Punjab to announce his arrival. He didn't perform consistently with the bat but added value by bowling smartly and fielding brilliantly. He was also constantly seen having a go at the opposition, especially the younger players, and getting under their skin. After missing out on a place in the Ashes squad, Symo was more determined to enjoy the game and prove a point.

New staff, fresh ideas
A lot of the camaraderie that Rajasthan Royals displayed in the first season of the IPL was attributed to the team-building exercises set in motion by Darren Lehman. As Chargers coach, he combined well with Gilly. He wore a smile on his face no matter how the match was poised and wore his happy-go-lucky attitude lightly. Cash incentives were used to get the best out of players and it worked. The Chargers also got Steve Smith, known to be a good fitness guru, into the picture. In the end the combination worked as the team excelled on the field and enjoyed themselves off it.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

England hungry for Ashes momentum

England star Paul Collingwood believes victory over West Indies in the second Test can give his side vital confidence ahead of the forthcoming Ashes.

The hosts are 1-0 up in the series and meet West Indies at the Riverside in their last Test outing before the first of five matches against Australia.

"It's important that we get the win," Durham all-rounder Collingwood told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"It would be a great confidence booster to go into the Ashes with."

Encouraged by their 10-wicket victory over West Indies at Lord's last week, England are aiming to secure their first Test series victory since beating New Zealand in June 2008.

They will also want to avenge their recent Test series defeat by West Indies in the Caribbean, which saw them humiliated by an innings and 23 runs in Jamaica before being held to three successive draws.

After the Riverside Test, England face the Windies in three one-day internationals and contest the ICC World Twenty20 before the first Test against Australia in Cardiff on 8 July.

"Our last four Test matches have been pretty much exceptional," said Collingwood.

"Out in the West Indies we didn't get the results but we put them under pressure after the Jamaica defeat and we've been very much on the ball since then.

"Hopefully that kind of momentum and winning formula will continue into the Ashes."

Eyebrows have been raised over England's decision to recall Ian Bell to the squad just one Test into the summer, a match which saw Ravi Bopara staring in Bell's number three position with a superb century.

Bell has not featured since being dropped after the Jamaica defeat in February but, having made centuries for the MCC and Warwickshire, his call-up has Collingwood's backing.

"Belly's response since being dropped in West Indies has been absolutely first class," he said.

"He's done everything he has been asked to do - he's put his fitness work in and his attitude has been fantastic. He's been very team orientated and the best thing he's done is he's gone out and scored runs in county cricket and big runs at that.

After returning match figures of 7-102 on his international debut at Lord's, Durham seamer Graham Onions is set to be given another chance to impress, this time on his home ground.

"Coming into international cricket can be a very daunting task with all the media hype and attention, but he seemed to just enjoy the occasion and did what he has done for Durham all season," said Onions' county team-mate Collingwood.

"He gets close to the stumps, bowls good lengths and straight and nips it around a little bit.

"What he did in his first match was exceptional but I think he'll keep his feet on the ground and the players around him will make sure he does as well.

"He's got a great opportunity again this week to prove what he can do in international cricket."

West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul has suffered at the hands of another England bowler, Graeme Swann, only managing to successfully negotiate one ball from the off-spinner in two innings.

Swann dismissed Chanderpaul for a golden duck in the first innings, and then got the same batsman out second ball in the next.

"I have to put it behind me and move forward to the next game," said Chanderpaul.

"He's been bowling well, you can't take anything away from him, we just have to be on our guard."

Swann, 30, is noted for his success against left-handers and with four among the Windies' top six, Chanderpaul accepts they have a problem to solve.

"It puts all our left-handers in the firing line, " he said.

"He's got all of us out so far, so we have to make sure we go out and find a way to deal with it."

But the former world number one batsman is aware of the size of the task his side face at the Riverside.

"We just have to put Lord's behind us, come out here and play as well as we know we can," Chanderpaul said.

"We're one down already, so the only way to save the Wisden Trophy is to win this game. We will have to perform well to do that."

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Newcastle striker Mark Viduka wants to stay at Newcastle

Newcastle striker Mark Viduka insists he is keen to remain with the club and has urged the hierarchy to do all they can to retain Alan Shearer as manager.

Viduka, 33, is out of contract at the end of this season, which is when Shearer's interim role is due to end.

He told the Sydney Morning Herald: "I'd love to spend more time at this club.

"I have been here for two years and we've had five managers. I would say to whoever is in charge, keep Alan for as long as he needs."

Viduka added: "The fans love him, he is Newcastle through and through, he is a big personality, people respect him and the players respect him."

Newcastle boosted their chances of avoiding relegation by beating Middlesbrough 3-1 on Monday to move out of the bottom three on goal difference.

Viduka has returned from an Achilles tendon injury to feature in four of Shearer's six games in charge, helping the Magpies to a draw at Portsmouth and the victory over Boro - their first win at St James' Park since 21 December.

He claims to have been largely overlooked by Joe Kinnear, who was forced to stand down as Newcastle manager after undergoing triple heart bypass surgery in February, and credits Shearer for his impressive form of late.

"When I had problems with my Achilles, I worked hard to get back, but Joe didn't look like he wanted to use me," said Viduka.

"When Alan came in, the first thing he said to me was 'Are you up for a fight?' and I am always up for a fight. I said 'Definitely'.

"I'm a massive fan of Alan's. I admired him as a player, we play the same position, and when someone with his personality and what he has done in the game comes and says 'I need you', it lifts you."

Newcastle face Fulham at home on Saturday before finishing the season away to Aston Villa, and Viduka is backing Shearer to help save the club from relegation and stay on as manager next season.

"He's had a massive impact, I wish him all the best. I hope we stay up and he's got a long career here," said the Australian.

"Everybody respects Alan - he's got that automatically. Maybe he doesn't have the experience as a manager, but he has got that presence about him."

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Andy Murray sees off Bolelli in Madrid

Andy Murray battled his way into the third round of the Madrid Open with a 7-6 (11-9) 6-4 win over Simone Bolelli.

The Briton was pushed hard by the world number 61 in the first set, coming through several mini-breaks in the tie-break, but one break took the second.

Murray, the world number three, will play Tommy Robredo in the last 16.

There were opening wins for second seed Roger Federer and seventh seed Fernando Verdasco, but ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lost to Ivan Ljubicic.

The only time Murray and Bolelli had met before this encounter was indoors on hard courts at the Madrid Masters in October, with the Scot leading 6-0 2-1 when the Italian retired.

But it was a different experience this time for Murray, who turns 22 on Friday, now that the event has moved to his least-favoured surface of clay.

Having lost on clay in the second round of the Rome Masters two weeks ago, the signs were not always good in a first set that lasted over an hour and went to a gruelling tie-break.

Murray grabbed a 4-2 lead before Bolelli fought back and earned two set points, but the third seed stayed calm and came through thanks to a long forehand from the 23-year-old Italian.

The second set followed a similar pattern, although Bolelli did have a break point on the seventh game that he failed to convert.

And went it came to the crunch 10th game experience was the difference, with Bolelli surviving one break point by firing down an ace but failing to save the next when he struck his effort into the net.

"I felt fairly good on the court, I hardly missed a ball the whole match," said Murray. "The first set was tough. I played some good points and overall was very happy with how I played."

The British number one said he had taken a leaf out of Rafael Nadal's book, having practised with the world number one earlier in the week.

"If you watch someone like Rafa at the start of matches you will see him a long way behind the baseline making a lot of balls, trying to play solid and the more confidence he gets he moves closer and closer to the baseline, and that's what I did today."

And Murray expects another tough test from the experienced Robredo.

"Tommy moves well and puts in high percentage of first serves," said Murray.

"He has a great forehand like many of the Spanish players. He rarely gives away much in a match. But I like the conditions here, they're much quicker than other clay surfaces I've played on in the last few weeks. I have to use my serve well though."

Meanwhile, Federer began his campaign with a straightforward win 6-1 7-5 over Sweden's Robin Soderling.

"It's about playing well and getting ready for Paris," said the Swiss. "It's good to get through the first match and hopefully build on this and play a bit better in my next match."

Verdasco eased into the third round, breaking the serve of fellow Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero five times en route to a 6-3 6-2 victory.

Croatia's Ljubicic upset Frenchman Tsonga 6-4 7-5, while Spaniard Robredo beat American Mardy Fish 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 and Russian 10th seed Nikolay Davydenko beat Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-2 6-2.

Top seed Nadal faces Juergen Melzer on Wednesday after the Austrian defeated Albert Montanes 4-6 7-5 6-3.

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Europe raise Ryder wildcard quota

Europe captain Colin Montgomerie will be able to pick an additional wildcard player for the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Montgomerie had hoped to have four wildcard choices at his disposal, but the European Tour committee agreed to three, one less than the United States.

Under the new system, five players will be selected from the European money list and four - down from the previous five - from the world rankings.

Wildcard Ian Poulter was Europe's top scorer in the 2008 defeat at Valhalla.

Nevertheless, the US won back the trophy last September with a comprehensive 16½-11½ victory.

After a prolonged spell of European dominance, US captain Paul Azinger lobbied to be able to pick four wildcards, and his request was granted.

Montgomerie, who was at the players' committee meeting at the County Louth club in Baltray, had been pushing to have four wildcard choices, arguing that it would allow him to select players in form.

But the decision to allow him three picks reflects the importance officials place on trying to retain and attract the top names to European tournaments.

Last year, Poulter and Paul Casey were both selected by Nick Faldo as wildcards after deciding to stay in the US for the final stretch of the qualifying race.

Montgomerie, who will be the first European captain to have three wildcards since Bernard Gallacher in 1993, is expected to give a news conference on Wednesday to give his reaction to the change.

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Thrissur Pooram 2009 Latest Photos

Thrissur Pooram 2009 Latest Photos

Thrissur Pooram 2009 Latest Photos

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