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Ashwin reclaims pole position in ICC Test bowling rankings

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New Delhi, March 13 (IANS) Veteran India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is back at the top position in the ICC Men’s Test Bowling Rankings after finishing with a nine-wicket match haul in his 100th Test match, which happened in Dharamsala.

Ashwin returned hauls of 4-51 and 5-77 against England as India won by an innings and 64 runs in the fifth and final Test to complete a 4-1 series win, which also puts them in the top position of the ongoing ICC World Test Championship table.

Ashwin reclaimed the top spot from compatriot, fast-bowling spearhead Jasprit Bumrah to start his sixth stint at the top of the rankings. He first became number one in December 2015.

Player of the Match Kuldeep Yadav, who became the fastest Indian in terms of balls bowled to take 50 Test wickets, has risen 15 places to a career-best 16th position after finishing with seven wickets in the match.

India captain Rohit Sharma (up five places to sixth) and Shubman Gill (up 11 places to a career-best 20th) have also made notable gains while Player of the Series Yashasvi Jaiswal has moved up two places to eighth place after notching a half-century in Dharamsala.

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Jaiswal, the left-handed opener, aggregates 740 rating points after nine Tests, with only two batters having tallied more after as many Tests – Australians Don Bradman (752) and Mike Hussey (741). England batters Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow have moved up a slot each in the batting rankings while off-spinner Shoaib Bashir has progressed 11 places to 71st position.

On the other hand, Australia completed a 2-0 series win over New Zealand in Christchurch to take second place behind India in the WTC table. Wicketkeeper-batter Alex Carey’s match-winning 98 not out sees him go up from 50th to 38th.

Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood continued his fine run to finish with six wickets in the match, including a five-for, to make it 35 wickets at 15.31 for the season and move to second position behind Ashwin in the bowlers’ rankings. That equals his best-ever position in the rankings, which he first achieved in February 2017.

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Despite a peak bowling rating of 864 – achieved in March 2017 – Hazlewood has never been in top spot. Only Kapil Dev (877), Ryan Harris (870), Courtney Walsh (868) and Rangana Herath (866) have had higher peaks without ever reaching number one position.

New Zealand pacer Matt Henry’s superb first innings figures of seven for 67 helped him advance six places to 12th and over the 700-point mark for the first time in his career. He is also up to sixth among all-rounders.

Australia’s Mitchell Marsh (up eight places to 55th) and New Zealand players Tom Latham (up six places 35th) and Rachin Ravindra (up 10 places to 66th) are others to move up the batting rankings.

In the Men’s ODI Rankings, Ireland’s Harry Tector has moved up two places to a career-best-equalling fourth position after aggregating 141 runs in the three-match series against Afghanistan while Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s series-topping 172 runs in his team’s 2-0 win, sees him move up from 24th to 22nd.

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Ibrahim Zadran (up three places to 14th among batters) and Fazalhaq Farooqi (up 10 places to 41st among bowlers) have also gained in the latest update. The Men’s T20I Rankings see Muhammad Waseem move up two places to 14th among batters after scoring 68 not out. His team-mate Junaid Siddiqui moved up 14 places to 74th among bowlers after returning 4-14 as the United Arab Emirates beat Scotland in the first T20I in Dubai.

Michael Levitt of the Netherlands (up 17 places to 32nd), Najmul Hossain Shanto of Bangladesh (up two places to 33rd) and Nepal captain Rohit Paudel (up six places to 48th) are others to move up in the batting rankings. Shoriful Islam of Bangladesh (up 19 places to 39th) and Ayan Afzal Khan of the UAE (up six places to 40th) have gained in the bowling rankings.

–IANS

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Jaspal Rana slams NRAI for sending Olympic-bound shooters to Munich WC

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Former Indian shooter Jaspal Rana has slammed the National Rifle Association of India’s (NRAI) decision to send the Olympic-bound shooters for the World Cup in Munich, starting on Friday.

In an exclusive interview with IANS, the Asian Games gold medallist shooter Rana questioned the selection of Olympic-bound shooters in the World Cup just before the quadrennial showpiece.

The veteran said the event won’t aid shooters for Olympic preparations as it is tough to sustain peak performance for long.

“There will be a World Cup in Munich after the hectic one-month Olympic trials. No player wants to perform badly in the World Cup. If you’re at the peak, will you be at the peak after one month also? Which sports science centre will tell you that players can stay at peak for three months. You can’t stay at peak level for long,” Rana told IANS.

“The policy was wrong and when you’ve made the policy just stick to it. You’re not sticking to your policy. If there is no ranking and point system in the Munich World Cup, so why are you delaying the names of the selected shooters for the Olympics? Even if you have to adjust one to two players, then reveal the rest of the players so that they can start their preparations,” he added.

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The team after competing at Munich World Cup will proceed to a camp in France before heading back for a two-week break at home. They will then assemble for a camp in Bhopal, before departing for the Olympic Games.

The 47-year-old further said that India should have replicated the approach opted by other countries including China and the USA, who have sent their second-string squad for the World Cup in Germany.

“Other countries have sent their B or C category squad for the World Cup. Very less Olympic-bound shooters will participate in it. This is not an opportunity for the Olympic team,” Rana asserted.

With less than two months left for the coveted Games to begin in Paris, there is still no clarity on India’s shooting squad for the event.

“I’ve failed to understand that if NRAI doesn’t have the president, chairman of the selection committee and policy-making committee then how they are selecting the team? It could be one of the reasons that the chairman of the NRAI selection committee is not there, that’s why they’re delaying the announcement,” he said.

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Despite the multiple challenges, Rana is hopeful of better results from Indian shooters in Paris.

“Yes, we were well prepared last time. This time too, our preparations are pretty well. The only thing that went wrong last time was the postponement of the Games due to Covid-19. Our team was at its peak at the time of the Olympics (as per the original schedule in 2020). After that due to a lot of problems, we couldn’t manage it properly.

“I’m quite positive,” Rana said on India’s medal chances in the Paris Olympics.

–IANS

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How 2 days with Jacques Dallaire helped Watson conquer short ball fear

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Shane Watson had a glittering career of nearly two decades as a premier all-rounder in white-ball cricket, at the international and franchise levels. He carved a reputation for stepping up when needed in big games and tournaments, while juggling to play all three formats for Australia and then transforming into a sought-after T20 leagues batter.

In an exclusive interview with IANS, during a recent hectic period of commentary in IPL 2024 and the launch of his second book ‘The Winner’s Mindset’ by HarperCollins Publishers India, Watson talks about overcoming the short ball fear, having a life-changing meeting with author and performance coach Dr Jacques Dallaire, and how he used his mental skills to play a memorable 117 not out in IPL 2018 final for Chennai Super Kings.

Q. You talk in the book about having absolutely life changing two days with Dr Jacques Dallaire. Can you elaborate on what all transpired in those two days?

A. I was at sliding doors moments in my life when I got connected with Dr. Jacques via Aussie IndyCar driver. Will Power. Dr Jacques’ background is over 50 years of working with high performance people on their mental side, predominantly in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, special forces.

I was going through a challenging time in my life at a point where I was neither performing, nor anywhere near my best. It looked like I was going to retire because I just knew that I couldn’t play the way I used to be able to do.

Having half an hour conversation with him initially, I was like, ‘okay, I think this guy’s going to give me some information that I haven’t heard before, but I think it’s going to really help me’. I was desperate because I was thinking about retiring and flew over to Charlotte, North Carolina to spend two days with him.

The information that he gave me was something I hadn’t heard before, even though I’d been around sports psychologists and mental skills coach from the age of probably 13. How simply the information was explained to me as well by him was just like there was light bulbs going off everywhere, like, ‘Oh my gosh, how come I didn’t know that?’

After that, I flew home back to Sydney and felt between, ‘Oh, I’ve got this, I can turn this around’ to ‘Oh no, I can’t’. It took a lot of work day by day and moment by moment about understanding of what my thoughts were and controlling them. But within six weeks, the issues that I had disappeared, as got them under control and over the next four years of my playing career, I had some of the best performances of my life.

From that moment of implementing those mental skills, and information, which had a huge impact on my performance, I said to Dr Jacques, ‘Well, I need to get this information out to as many people as possible because this information should be readily available, but it’s not’.

Everywhere that I’ve looked, I haven’t been able to find information in a really simple way to understand in a way that I can apply it to any performance. From that moment, I ended up working with him and he taught me how to teach this information. Now I’m very fortunate to have access to his IP to be able to then put it into my own words and get the information out to as many people as possible.

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Q. You also talk about the fear of facing the short ball coming after the tragic death of Phil Hughes. How did you overcome it?

A. It was just one of the biggest, if not the biggest tragedy in world cricket, seeing one of our mates get killed by a ball coming at him. From there, I started to believe and think there’s no reason why the next ball coming to me couldn’t have the same effect on me and my family’s life.

From that moment, the fear of the short ball came into my mind and game, which as a top order batter means you are sabotaging your own performance because of the new mental environment being created via that fear.

Meeting with Dr Jacques made me understand that I could turn things around via one of the rules of the mental road – rule number two, which is your mind can actively process one thought at a time. By deeply understanding that if I put the right thing into my mind at the right time, then the wrong thing can’t come in.

The wrong thing coming with fear of short ball, as a batter, was if you pre-meditate the short ball, then you’re slow on it anyway. If it’s not a short ball, you’re out of position and exposed, which means there’s a good chance you’ll get out.

By putting the right thing in my mind at the right time as the ball came out, and the word I put for me is aggressive because that’s me ready to react and not have any thought of what’s coming down. By implementing that, I’m tapping into all my instincts, and muscle memory that’s so deeply ingrained in me.

Immediately by understanding that, I was like, ‘Oh, I can do that’. I had to develop that trust in my technique of playing the short ball and worked hard it for six weeks to sort of retrain that. But by putting the right thing into my mind, so the wrong thing couldn’t come in, I never had that fear on my game again.

Q. In those last four years, there was that 117 not out in the IPL 2018 final for the Chennai Super Kings against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Going from zero off ten balls to making a century in an IPL final, what did take for you to do it mentally?

A. It was really a culmination of putting all of those mental skills together. I started learning these skills at the end of 2015 and had a couple of years of really just pulling all that information and learning how to be able to make the most of it. Like, what were the right and wrong thoughts in the lead up to the game? What was the best way to maintain & sustain my mental energy without burning it out before a big game like that?

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Even when I was zero off 10 balls chasing in the second innings, every ball was about staying in the moment, being fully focused on the present and it was about breaking down each ball. After I faced a ball, what happened technically, mentally, where was I at? I just kept doing that.

I was just in the process, staying fully present, working through to bring the best version of me as the ball came out. Even five years ago, being none off 10 balls, there would be much chance of me panicking and going, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to really get on with this and play a rash shot’.

Whereas I was just pulling myself into the ultimate zone that you’re chasing, I knew every step along the way was getting me closer to that ultimate space you’re trying to get into in performance – the zone. So by pulling myself into it, it took a bit of time, about 15 or 20 balls.

Once I got there, then I just stayed there in the moment and that’s when I had a great day in one of the high pressure games. That innings was just a culmination of my skills that I had been training for since I was a kid at the age of 36 and then applying those new mental skills that I’d been integrating into my performances as well.

That really was a perfect storm – by applying that in a pressure game was again a confirmation that these mental skills are so powerful. I wish that I had this information as a teenager because it would have meant that I was able to perform more consistently and significantly reduce the pressure, stress, anxiety and worry that goes with being desperate for getting the best results every single time.

Q. Do you think that if you encountered these mental skills early in your career, it would have helped you a great deal mentally?

A. There’s no question it would have helped a crazy amount, especially from a Test cricket perspective as well. The biggest issue I see in society now and working with a lot of different people is mental fatigue. There’s so much over stimulation that we’ve always got things available to us, whether it’s messages, social media, or notifications, life is incredibly busy and overstimulating.

Plus, our desire to be able to perform every single time and being obsessed with results, with me certainly being one of those. I wanted to be the best I possibly could be and would put so much pressure on myself to perform because of desperation to get the best results possible. I used to overthink situations in the lead up to a big series like an Ashes or a World Cup.

Ahead of match day, I’d just be, ‘Who am I going to be up against? Who am I playing?’. I would have played the game in my mind before it even started. By the time actual game came, I was mentally so tired and fatigued. When you’re mentally fatigued, then your ability to access deeply ingrained skills reduces, and decision-making becomes so sluggish.

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It’s like you are stuck in the mud, whereas when you’re mentally fresh, you’ve got a lot of energy, and decision making is accurate, crisp, and sharp. That time, I had no idea that the concept around your brain is like a muscle. Once I understood this information around conserving and regenerating my mental energy, I made sure to make the most of it.

So I used a few different techniques to be able to conserve my mental energy even when I was in the moment playing the game. Like, I put a song into my head to put my mind on neutral. Different people have different techniques to just do that, whether it’s focusing on breathing, or like Sir Viv Richards used to chew gum. When the ball’s about to come out, they have all the mental energy in reacting to the ball to the best of their ability.

Q. You just mentioned about using music to put your mind on neutral. How did that come about for you to implement it in your performances?

A. Music has always been something that I’ve loved, even as a kid. I learnt playing the guitar in my early 20s and being on tour, especially with Brett Lee, that was a way to chill out as well. I didn’t necessarily do it to chill out, it was more so I had so much downtime on tour and wanted to learn a new skill.

But the thing I realized when I now look back at a lot of my best performances, even before I knew this information, is I had a catchy song in my head that I was just singing along to – whether it was a song I listened to in the lead up to the game or a song that came on while I was batting. It was just in the background there for the whole time.

Glenn McGrath and Michael Clarke always had a song in their head they used. I didn’t fully understand why they used it, but it worked incredibly well for them. It wasn’t until Dr. Jacques explained to me the power of having something that you can move your mind to and put it on neutral.

For me, songs was something that had worked in the past, that it just happened without me consciously putting a song into my head. From that moment, I was like, ‘Well, no matter what, one, if I start to overthink a situation, even in the lead up to the game, jam a song into my head’.

If I was overthinking a situation in any way, shape or form, I put a song into my head, because that means I can trust my gut instincts, intuition, and also not burn my mental energy, so as to access my super highway reactions and be ready to react when the ball comes out.

–IANS

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Squash: Rathika Seelan enters Hong Kong PSA Challenge Cup QF

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Hong Kong, May 30 (IANS) Rathika Suthanthira Seelan advanced to the quarterfinals of the Hong Kong PSA Challenge Cup – 4th leg with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over local challenger Ka Huen Leung.

The sixth-seeded Indian edged out Leung 4-11, 5-11, 11-4, 11-4, 11-7 in the second round after receiving a bye in the opening round.

The Tamil Nadu player, who won her maiden Professional Squash Association Tour title at the HCL Squash Tour in Indore last weekend, will meet third-seeded Malaysian Sehveetrraa Kumar in the quarterfinals.

–IANS

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Europe Tour: Indian jr men's hockey team registers shootout win over Germany

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Breda (Netherlands), May 30 (IANS) Indian junior men’s hockey team registered a shootout victory against Germany, while the junior women concluded their Tour of Europe with a draw against Oranje Rood.

The junior men triumphed in the shootouts, winning 1-1 (3-1 SO) after Mukesh Toppo (33’) scored in regulation time. For the junior women’s team, Sanjana Horo (18’) and Anisha Sahu (58’) scored in their 2-2 draw with Dutch club Oranje Rood.

After a quiet first half, during which neither the Indian junior men nor Germany could find the back of the net, Mukesh Toppo (33′) scored off a rebound from a penalty corner early in the third quarter. The Indians held their lead until Germany equalised four minutes into the fourth quarter, adding excitement to the game. Despite both teams’ efforts to take the lead, the score remained unchanged at the end of regulation time, leading to a penalty shootout.

India won the shootout 3-1, with Gurjot Singh, Dilraj Singh, and Manmeet Singh scoring. They concluded their Tour of Europe with a victory in their final game.

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Meanwhile, the junior women’s team played a quiet first quarter against Oranje Rood. Early in the second quarter, Sanjana (18’) broke the deadlock for India. Oranje Rood responded well, earning two penalty corners but the Indian defense held firm, ending the first half 1-0 in India’s favour.

Oranje Rood took the initiative in the third quarter. In their search for goals, Oranje Rood pushed India back, earning three penalty corners and scoring twice to take a 2-1 lead. The Indian junior women’s hockey team strove to level the score in the last quarter, achieving a breakthrough when Anisha (58’) scored in the final moments, ending the match in a 2-2 draw.

–IANS

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Singapore Open: Sindhu bows out after second round loss against Marin

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Singapore, May 30 (IANS) Two-time Olympic medallist shuttler PV Sindhu’s Singapore Open campaign ended in the second round after losing to familiar foe Carolina Marin of Spain, here on Thursday.

World no. 12 Sindhu suffered a 21-13, 11-21, 20-22 hard-fought loss in the second round of the BWF Super 750 Badminton tournament.

Earlier, the Indian ace defeated world No. 21 Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt of Denmark 21-12, 22-20 in the opening round to set up a meeting with former Olympic champion Marin.

The two shuttlers famously faced each other in the final of the Rio 2016 Olympics where the Spaniard emerged victorious

With a win on Thursday, Marin extended her head-to-head record over Sindhu to 12-5.

More to follow.

–IANS

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