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CLOSE-IN: IPL- The Indian Pleasurable League (IANS column)

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The 17th edition of the most popular Indian cricket tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL), will take place in Chennai on March 22, 2024. The match between the Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bengaluru should be just the required start of pleasurable cricket entertainment that will be enjoyed by millions of cricket lovers around the world.

In India, the IPL has become a digital and television serial that engrosses families every evening and one that will finish on May 26, 2024. Over two months of cricketing bliss will make unknown cricketers into stars and superstars of the existing ones.

With the presence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, considered today to be at the top of the chart in popularity, along with Virat Kohli, nicknamed the “King” of Indian cricket, the opening match should be a humdinger. The two greats of the game have been absent from the cricket arena for a while and to see them back will itself bring a feeling of joy and unfound pleasure. Dhoni has been away for a year and he has gone through knee surgery, however, it is his cricketing mind that has made him into a legend and for which he is revered by one and all.

Virat Kohli on the other hand, is back after taking time off for the delivery of his second child. With his spouse, daughter and his baby boy tucked comfortably in his abode, he will definitely be ready to fire on all cylinders from the onset.

Played amid India’s elections and election campaigns, the IPL will have 10 franchise teams battling to win the prestigious and glamour-driven Trophy. The BCCI will need to schedule the next stage of matches considering the election dates, a task which would maybe add a hint of uncertainty for the franchise teams, as venues and matches may need to be changed.

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This IPL’24 will have that extra bit of interest and seriousness to it. On its completion, the next big cricket tournament is the ICC T20 World Cup to be played in the Caribbean Islands and the United States of America in June’24. The Indian players will be vying to find slots in the National side, whereas, for the overseas players, it will be an ideal platform for preparation to get their game tuned before the World Cup.

The T20 is a format that requires continuous change, adaptation and experimentation for both batters and bowlers and the IPL will be just the platform to get all the concerned cricketers ready for the fray.

Cricket is not the only reason for the success of the Indian Premier League. The franchise-based ownership brings forth innovative marketing and eye-catching ideas. The screen and events both on and off the field bring in hordes of loyal supporters. The gaming and betting sites have drawn every segment of society into selecting players and team combinations to strike a win and a possible huge monetary gain for them.

The uncertainty of cricket is the bug that has bitten millions, all believing that their cricketing research as well as acumen will make them into winners. In the end, it is the sport that will win and one has to thank the IPL for creating such a wonderful attraction.

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Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings are two teams who have dominated the IPL in the past. Both of them have won the title five times each. However, predicting the winner is like finding a needle in a haystack. All the 10 teams have match-winning international and domestic players.

Each of the teams also has professional support staff, analysts, fitness coaches, and physical and mental trainers. With 250 cricketers all trying their very best to showcase their skill and talent, one feels in the end it is the domestic players that finally differentiate as to how a team performs.

This is exactly why the IPL is an important goal for a domestic cricketer, as in the past Indian cricket has unearthed unknown cricketers through this route who have gone on and played for their country. Several of them have become household names and superstars with rags-to-riches tales to add to the glamour.

The IPL’24 will have some interesting cricketers to follow. The two Australians, Pat Cummings and Mitchell Starc have a heavy price on their head. They will need to showcase their worth. In the past, the burden of being the highest-paid cricketer seems to weigh heavily on a player’s shoulder and the returns have been abysmal at the end.

The recovery and fitness of Rishabh Pant, the captain of Delhi Capitals will be one to follow. The pleasure and thrill of seeing him back on the cricket field after such a horrific accident shows the remarkable character and tenacity that Pant possesses. He has been a true match-winner for India in the past and with such zest and enthusiasm for the game he will definitely be the darling of the crowd. A cricketer admired for the way he has stood up after being floored.

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The Mumbai Indians have also created a stir which they must be regretting by now. For them to have replaced the present successful Indian captain, Rohit Sharma, with Hardik Pandya, who led the Gujarat Titans to the title in 20211 and the final last year, may have been acceptable a few months ago but in the present situation, it seems to be a bit of a question mark. Hardik has been on the injury list till recently and in the past as well. For MI to disrupt the man at the head is something to ponder over. Rohit may play far freer, however, the hurt of being replaced is never an easy one to endure.

The Indian young guns performed brilliantly in the last Test series against England. Their success has brought about a sea of change as to how the Indian selectors will be looking at selecting the Indian squad from now on.

The battle between the young and the old established Indian cricketers will be interesting as the fight will be for a place in the Indian T20 World Cup squad. One to look forward to.

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal)

–IANS

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England, Pakistan players gain big; Suryakumar remains top ICC batter in latest T2OI rankings

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Dubai, May 29 (IANS) As the cricketing world eagerly anticipates the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup set to kick off in the West Indies and USA, the latest update to the ICC Men’s T20I Player Rankings has seen significant movement among international stars from Pakistan, West Indies, and England.

England’s Jos Buttler has ascended to seventh place on the T20I batters list, after brilliant 84-run innings in Birmingham. His teammate, Jonny Bairstow, also made strides, climbing eight places to 36th after a solid performance in the same match. For Pakistan, Fakhar Zaman’s rapid 45 from 21 deliveries against England has earned him a jump of six places to 51st in the batting rankings.

The West Indies have seen a trio of their players make notable gains following their series sweep over South Africa. Brandon King has moved up five spots to eighth, Johnson Charles has soared 17 places to 20th, and Kyle Mayers has risen 12 rungs to 31st. Additionally, Gudakesh Motie, named Player of the Series for his eight-wicket haul, has rocketed from outside the top 100 to 27th in the T20I bowlers rankings.

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England’s Reece Topley has inched up one spot to ninth among bowlers, while Pakistan’s bowling attack has seen Shaheen Afridi rise to equal 11th, Haris Rauf to 25th, and Imad Wasim to 38th.

India’s Suryakumar Yadav remains the No.1 ranked T20I batter, poised to make a significant impact. England’s Adil Rashid continues to hold the top spot among T20I bowlers.

–IANS

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Nasser Al-Khelaifi refused to pay Mbappe salary and bonus worth 80 million euros: Report

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New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) Kylian Mbappe’s exit from Paris Saint Germain has taken a dark turn as his relation with president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has turned from bad to worse with the latter reportedly refusing to pay the young French forward the remainder of his salary.

According to a report by French outlet L’Equipe, Al-Khelaifi simply cannot accept the fact that Kylian Mbappé is joining Real Madrid for free. He’s currently refused to pay the player a total of 80 million Euros, in salary and bonus. PSG did not pay Kylian Mbappé’s salary in April. They also did not pay him a big bonus they owed him in February and lawyers are now involved

This news follows after a report by L’Equipe had previously stated that Mbappe and Al-Khelaifi got into a shouting contest ahead of Mbappe’s farewell game at the Parc Des Princes as the president was furious with the 2022 World Cup golden boot winner for not mentioning him in his farewell message.

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“We want him to stay but he can’t leave for free. It was our oral agreement and he had expressed it publicly in an interview. So it’s not debatable. I was really shocked to learn that he intended to leave for free. It’s very disappointing because Kylian is a fantastic boy, a real gentleman, and leaving for free, weakening the biggest French club, it’s not him. When I received this information, I was shocked and disappointed,” Al-Khelaifi had told Le Parisien earlier.

The 2018 World Cup winner is said to have already agreed a contract with Real Madrid in a deal which is expected to be announced post the UEFA Champions League winner where the Los Blancos will face Borussia Dortmund.

–IANS

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Ultimate Table Tennis 2024 set to begin on August 22 in Chennai

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Chennai, May 29 (IANS) The fifth season of Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) will be played from August 22 to September 7 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium.

It will be an eight-team league for the first time providing a platform for young Indian paddlers to exhibit their talent alongside the world’s elite players. The escalating popularity of table tennis, bolstered by notable Indian achievements, has catalysed the league’s expansion into new territories. Embracing this momentum, the league proudly announced the inclusion of two esteemed franchises: the Ahmedabad SG Pipers and the Jaipur Patriots.

“The introduction of additional teams will infuse a heightened level of competition, strategically coinciding with the post-Paris Games period to capitalize on the prevailing Olympic fervour nationwide. Moreover, the decision to host the league in Chennai pays tribute to the city’s esteemed sporting heritage, which has produced numerous legendary paddlers, but also reinforces our commitment to honouring its illustrious legacy,” expressed Niraj Bajaj, co-promoter of UTT.

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Goa Challengers secured victory over former champions, Chennai Lions, in the preceding year, thus entering the league as defending champions for UTT 2024. Joining them are Dabang Delhi TTC, U Mumba TT, Puneri Paltan, Bengaluru Smashers and the two new franchisees. Each team will maintain a roster of six players, including two foreign players, as they all contend for the coveted title this season.

“The core mission behind UTT’s inception was to enhance the stature of table tennis in India, providing our players with a platform to compete against the world’s best and propel Indian table tennis to unprecedented heights. Recent historic victories by our Indian players against Chinese opponents and the National men’s and women’s teams qualifying for the Olympics through the world team rankings underscore this mission,” emphasized Vita Dani, chairperson of UTT.

The format has undergone a slight alteration with the inclusion of eight teams, that will now be divided into two groups of four teams each. Each franchisee will continue to compete in five ties during the league stage, facing all other teams within their respective group once, alongside two randomly selected teams from the opposing group, determined through a draw.

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–IANS

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‘These last few days’: Chhetri shares emotional post heading into final international game

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Bhubaneswar, May 29 (IANS) The entire footballing fraternity is counting the days till June 6 when an icon of the sport, Sunil Chettri will be donning the Blue Tigers jersey for the final time against Kuwait at Salt Lake Stadium.

Chhetri announced his retirement in an emotional nine-minute-long video posted on social media on May 16.

Sunil Chhetri took to Instagram to share his thoughts and mindset heading into his final game. “These last few days, I’ve been caught in a bit of a dilemma. Now that there’s a number to my days with the national team, what’s the right route to take – do I count every day, every training session? Or do I simply turn up without the thought of how this is coming to an end?” read the post by the Indian skipper.

“Over time, I seemed to have found middle ground. They say, count your blessings. And every single day I get to be on the pitch is a blessing that I’ve never taken for granted. So I’ve decided to count my sessions, but with a deep sense of gratitude. There’s no apprehension. Instead, there’s a feeling of being indebted to the sport, to my team, that I get to do this.

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If I could, I would capture this feeling in a box. Or instead, I’ll take it to my next training session,” it further added.

India vs Kuwait will be the national team’s all time top scorers final game for the country and will be hoping to end his glorious international career on a high. It is a must win game for the country if they are to progress to the next round of the FIFA WC Qualifiers as they face a dominant force in Qatar in their final game of the stage on June 11.

Chhetri announced his retirement in an emotional nine minute long video posted on social media on May 16.

The Blue Tigers national team is currently in the training camp in Bhubaneswar getting ready for the two critical matches.

His impact on the game that has spanned for nearly two decades has seen his fandom spread across the country. The game against Kuwait at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata will be an emotional encounter as India will bid farewell to its most loyal servant.

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–IANS

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'Whenever he performs, we win,' Cummins, Head told Abhishek Sharma's father

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New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) Abhishek Sharma has been one of the highlights of the 2024 IPL season. It was his exploits with opening partner Travis Head that made SRH the highest-scoring team in the season.

The young all-rounder smashed 42 sixes through the course of the tournament which saw him top the chart for most sixes in a tournament followed by Heinrich Klassen and Virat Kohli ties at 38. The opening batsman amassed 484 runs at a blistering strike rate of 204.22 through the course of the tournament.

In an exclusive conversation with IANS, Abhishek Sharma’s father Rajkumar Sharma shared what he told his son after the final.

“I told him it’s okay to win and lose is a part of the game but your journey in the IPL was great,” Rajkumar Sharma told IANS. “The team was not able to perform in the final and even they were shocked by what had happened but even they believed that had Abhishek performed then they could have won the game. I met Pat Cummins and Travis Head and they heaped praises of Abhishek and told me that he is a great player and he is a core member of the team and whenever he performs we win.”

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Despite an extraordinary batting display throughout the tournament, Sharma’s batting like all others in his team faltered in the finals. It was an extraordinary ball by Mitchell Starc which bowled Sharma on just the fifth ball of the first innings and sent him to the pavilion at just two runs.

He made history by being the first batsman to amass more than 400 runs in an innings without even having to face 30 balls in a single inning. The most deliveries he has faced, 28, came against the Lucknow Super Giants, where he chased down a 166-run mark in 9.4 overs while remaining undefeated at 75.

Sunrisers Hyderabad got bundled out for 113 runs in their bid to win the second IPL trophy in franchise history, KKR faced no challenges in chasing the total down as they finished the game in just 63 deliveries making it one of the most one-sided finals in the history of the tournament.

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“After the IPL final, I told him not to worry as every player has his day and that day was not for the team. The batting flopped on the day as their team heavily relied on their openers and on the day both opener did not get the start. No player was able to get off to the start. The highest-scoring team in the league went flop on the day. I don’t know what happened and they were not able to perform well. The game was so low-scoring that they could not have fought for the win,” he added.

–IANS

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