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India will clinch gold medal in Paris Olympics, says jr men's team forward Gurjot Singh

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Bengaluru, June 6 (IANS) The Indian junior men’s hockey team forward Gurjot Singh is confident that the senior team will clinch a gold medal in the upcoming Paris Olympics Games.

Only 50 days remain before the Indian men’s hockey team begins their Paris 2024 Olympics campaign in which they will strive to end the 44-year gold medal drought. India are placed in Pool B alongside, defending Champions Belgium, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, and Ireland, and they will have to ensure a top-four finish in the pool to progress to the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, Pool A is made up of the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, and South Africa, and hosts France, setting the stage for an intense battle in the 12-team men’s hockey tournament at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Gurjot is pleased with the Indian men’s team’s performance in the ongoing FIH Pro League and feels that players will be at their peak form for the Paris Olympics.

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“The men’s team is performing well in the FIH Pro League currently, scoring from penalty corners and field goals while showcasing exemplary defensive skills in certain moments. Everyone looks fit and is set to peak right in time for the Paris 2024 Olympics,” Gurjot said in a Hockey India release.

“The whole country was happy after the bronze medal in Tokyo, and now everyone, the senior team included, expects a gold medal. The Indian junior men’s hockey team played practice matches against them, and I could feel the team was different compared to the last time. They have significantly improved upon their combinations and teamwork. I am confident the team will clinch the gold medal at the Olympics this time,” he added.

The Indian team will begin their campaign on July 27 against New Zealand, followed by a match against Argentina on July 29 before facing Ireland and Belgium on July 30 and August 1. They will play their last group-stage game against Australia on August 2.

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Indian junior women’s hockey team captain Jyoti Singh shared her thoughts on the same and said, “I was following both hockey teams at the Tokyo Olympics and I was overjoyed to witness the Men’s Team end a 41-yearlong medal drought, a day after the Women’s Team finished fourth, marking their best performance at the Olympics.

“Before the Indian men’s hockey team left to play in the FIH Pro League 2023/24 they were training in SAI and I felt the energy level of the team was off the charts, they were sincere in training and most importantly the unity in the team was visibly the best it has been, on and off the pitch.

“They are focused when it is time to train and they enjoy each other’s company off the pitch; qualities that we aim to inculcate in the Junior Women’s Team as well after witnessing them. Last time around the team earned the bronze medal, since then they have improved in all aspects and increased their performance levels. We want them to play their best hockey in the Paris 2024 Olympics, reach the Final, and bring home the Gold medal,” she added.

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On this milestone day, Hockey India is launching a special podcast series, “Hockey te Charcha ft. Familia,” which aims to delve into the lives of family members of Indian men’s team players and brings to light their sacrifices and jubilations throughout the players’ careers.

–IANS

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Smriti, Deepti & Pooja did the work of contributing for the team: Harmanpreet Kaur

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Bengaluru, June 16 (IANS) After decimating South Africa by 143 in the ODI series opener at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur appreciated vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, as well as all-rounders Deepti Sharma and Pooja Vastrakar for contributing to team’s victory.

On a slightly sluggish pitch, Smriti smashed a fantastic 117, her sixth ODI century, to take India to 265/8. She was well-supported by knocks from Deepti (37) and Pooja (31 not out), followed by the duo taking two wickets and one scalp respectively to bowl out South Africa for 122 in 37.4 overs. The result has meant India have gone 1-0 up in the three-game series.

“It’s definitely a good start, and it was a great team performance. The message was very clear: just be there and keep backing yourself. We have a long batting line-up; we have at least six batters who can bat for 50 overs.”

“I know in a game everyone can’t contribute; only two or three players are going to take the team ahead. I think today Smriti, Deepti, and Pooja did that work,” said Harmanpreet after the match ended.

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Talking about the bowling combination and Pooja’s left leg injury scare, Harmanpreet said, “We already discussed that we are going with five bowlers, and maybe myself, Hemalatha, or Shafali might come and bowl a few overs when required. I hope (Pooja) she’s fine and not that bad. It was great for me that I got a few overs to bowl for the team.”

Smriti, named Player of the Match for her composed knock in tough situations for India laced with 12 fours and a six, said she was elated to have played a huge role in the hosts’ win. “We won the match so really happy that I could contribute, important to start the tournament well, we got 100+ win, nothing better than that.”

“As I said earlier, it was really a task not to go aerial and go for the grounded shots, we have played a lot of T20 cricket, today the need was for partnerships, credit to Deepti and Pooja for getting those. It was playing the situation.”

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“In one-day cricket and white-ball cricket, there will be days when one or two batters will carry the team. My role was to take it deep, once I was set, having got to 30-40. I don’t think anyone got out after getting set and that was the role given to me.”

Leg-spinner Asha Sobhana, who took 4-21 on her ODI debut, said her plan was to keep things as simple as possible, due to the pitch offering help for bowlers. “I just kept it simple, I wanted to bowl in the right areas, I was in a good rhythm, I wanted to continue. I have been practising this for years, I did not want to do anything extraordinary, wanted to focus on the basics.”

“There was a lot for turn on the wicket, did not want to give space to the batters, wanted to vary the pace so that the batters don’t pick my variations. This stadium is very special for me, by the grace of god everything went well. Pitch is amazing and a little bit of my effort as well.”

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“I woke up in the morning today and prayed to God that everything should go well, glad that it went well. They (team management) just told me to enjoy, they had lot of confidence in my skills, they wanted me to go out and explore. I’m happy that my nation won.”

South Africa skipper said she was disappointed over her batting line-up never being in the hunt to chase down the total posted by India. “Obviously, this is not the ideal way to start the series. I think there are a few positives, however. I thought it was a very decent score.”

“I thought one person needed to bat through; was a very chaseable target. I think the bowlers did pretty well; as I said, 265 was not too bad. We just lost our way with the bat. We had the batting line up to fix whatever had gone wrong earlier. But being 30 for 3 was not ideal.”

–IANS

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Draper clinches first ATP Tour title in thrilling victory over Berrettini

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Stuttgart, June 16 (IANS) British No. 1 Jack Draper secured his maiden ATP Tour title with a resilient comeback against Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, winning 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 at Stuttgart Open, here on Sunday.

The match, played on Sunday, began with Berrettini displaying his formidable serving power, which earned him the first set 6-3.

Draper struggled to find his rhythm against the Italian’s consistent baseline play and powerful serves. However, the second set saw a different Draper, one who matched Berrettini’s intensity and refused to back down.

The second set was a nail-biter, with both players holding serve throughout. Draper had two opportunities to take the set at 5-4 but was unable to capitalize. Berrettini then had two break points at 5-5, but Draper dug deep, fending off the Italian’s advances to force a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, Draper showcased his mental fortitude, clinching it 7-5 to level the match and push it into a deciding set.

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The third set was equally competitive, with both players battling hard. The turning point came at 3-3 when Draper managed to secure a crucial break of serve. Holding his nerve, Draper served out the match, winning the set 6-4 and with it, his first ATP title.

“It is incredible. Thanks for all the support. It was a really tough match and I am really happy to win my first title. It means so much to me,” Draper said after his victory. “There has been a lot of hard work and a lot of tough moments. It’s been up and down but I’m really glad with the way I played, and it’s a testament to the work I have been doing.”

Draper’s journey to this point has not been without its challenges. He previously reached two ATP 250 event finals, losing to Adrian Mannarino at the Sofia Open in November 2023 and to Jiri Lehecka at the Adelaide International in January. This victory, however, signifies a breakthrough, highlighting his growth and potential on the professional circuit.

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Berrettini, a seasoned player with eight ATP Tour titles to his name, including two at the Stuttgart Open and five on grass, was gracious in defeat. “Congratulations to Jack – an unbelievable week, an unbelievable match. I am sure this guy is going to lift more trophies,” the Italian said. “I got close and this will hurt for a bit, but that is tennis. Hopefully this is the first step on the grass-court season.”

For Draper, the celebration will be short-lived as he prepares to play in London on Tuesday. “In tennis, there is not a lot of time to celebrate,” he noted, already looking ahead to his next challenge.

–IANS

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Euro 2024: Weghorst strikes late to secure Netherlands' 2-1 Victory Over Poland

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Hamburg (Germany), June 16 (IANS) The Netherlands overcame an early setback to defeat Poland 2-1 in Hamburg, with former Manchester United striker Wout Weghorst coming off the bench to score a decisive late winner in Group D opener, here on Sunday.

Poland, missing their star striker Robert Lewandowski due to a hamstring injury, found an early hero in Adam Buksa. Buksa, stepping in for Lewandowski, capitalized on a Piotr Zielinski corner to head Poland into the lead in the 16th minute. The goal stunned the Dutch side, who had already squandered good chances through Tijjani Reijnders and Xavi Simons.

The Netherlands, however, quickly sought redemption. Memphis Depay, having missed a golden opportunity by lifting his shot over the bar just minutes earlier, saw his team level the score when Cody Gakpo’s deflected shot wrong-footed Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the 29th minute. This goal marked the beginning of an intense offensive display from Gakpo, who registered five attempts in the first half, the joint-most on record for a Dutch player in the first half of a match at the Euros since 1980.

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Poland, needing to regroup, showed renewed vigor after the halftime break. Jakub Kiwior’s shot deflected off Nathan Ake, forced a save from Dutch goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen. Piotr Zielinski then tested Verbruggen again with a long-range effort, highlighting Poland’s determination to regain the lead.

The Dutch responded with equal intensity. Denzel Dumfries came close, sweeping an attempt wide of the far post. The breakthrough for the Netherlands came in the 84th minute when substitute Wout Weghorst, still on Burnley’s roster, latched onto a clever through ball from Nathan Ake.

Weghorst coolly guided the ball into the net, marking his seventh goal in his last 11 appearances for the Oranje and securing a late lead.

Poland refused to bow out quietly. Substitute Karol Swiderski nearly equalized when he met Jakub Piotrowski’s cross, firing a low shot that forced Verbruggen into a full-stretch save. Piotrowski’s follow-up, however, was sent into the side-netting, sealing Poland’s fate.

The victory places the Netherlands at the top of Group D, with the next match featuring France and Austria set to take place in Dusseldorf on Monday.

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–IANS

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1st ODI: Mandhana, Sobhana help India decimate South Africa by 143 runs (Ld)

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Bengaluru, June 16 (IANS) Vice-captain Smriti Mandhana slammed a fantastic 117 off 127 balls, also her sixth century in ODIs, while leg-spinner Asha Sobhana shined with a four-wicket haul on debut to setup India’s 143-run thrashing of South Africa at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and begin the multi-format series on a high note.

On a slightly sluggish pitch which offered variable bounce, seam movement and spin, India were reduced to 99/5 at one stage after electing to bat first. But Smriti stood tall, played her shots all over the park and even kept cramps at bay to keep India’s innings together with utmost discipline, control and remarkable composure.

In the process of bailing India out of trouble, Smriti brought up her first ODI century at home, laced with 12 fours and a six, to enthrall an enthusiastic Sunday crowd. She was also well-supported by knocks from Deepti Sharma (37) and Pooja Vastrakar (31) as India crossed 250-mark.

In reply, Asha’s fine spell of 4-21, where she spun the ball well and got good zip on her deliveries, ensured South Africa were never in the hunt to chase down 269. The Proteas lost wickets at regular intervals and didn’t stitch a long partnership to be bowled out for 122 in 37.4 overs.

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Renuka Singh Thakur, Pooja Vastrakar, Deepti Sharma and Radha Yadav were also amongst the wickets and supported Asha very well as India are now 1-0 up in the three-match series. South Africa suffered a big setback in the opening over of the chase as skipper Laura Wolvaardt was castled through the gate by a big nip-backer from Renuka.

Anneke Bosch was next to depart as she was trapped lbw by a seaming in delivery from Pooja Vastrakar which kept low. A returning Tazmin Brits didn’t last long as she came down the pitch for a big shot, but was caught by point off Deepti, who was playing her 200th international match for India. Asha came in to have Marizanne Kapp as her first ODI scalp, as the experienced campaigner cuts the ball straight to cover.

Scoreboard pressure then resulted in the run-out of Annerie Dercksen and Sune Luus, despite putting up a resistance with 33, missed a sweep off Deepti to be trapped lbw. From there, the result was a foregone conclusion as Radha had Nondumiso Shangase lbw, before Asha took out remaining three wickets to make her ODI debut memorable by sealing a dominant win for India.

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Earlier, Smriti started off the proceedings with back-to-back beautiful drives off Masabata Klass, but saw Shafali Verma being lured into an expansive drive off Ayabonga Khaka and nicked behind to a diving Sinalo. Dayalan Hemalatha’s promotion to number three didn’t last long as she miscued to mid-off against Nonkululeko Mlaba.

Though Smriti nailed her pulls off debutante Annerie, India continued to lose wickets as captain Harmanpreet Kaur chipped to extra cover and give the seamer her maiden international wicket. It was followed by a returning Jemimah Rodrigues slog-sweeping to mid-wicket off Nondumiso and Richa Ghosh nicking behind off Ayabonga.

Smriti got a good applause from the crowd when she reached her fifty in 61 balls and brought up the fifty of her partnership with Deepti through a well-timed pull going for four. Deepti began nailing her sweeps off Nondumiso from the other end, followed by Smriti lofting and sweeping her for boundaries to keep India in the hunt for posting a competitive total.

But against the run of play, Deepti chopped on to her stumps off Ayabonga. Smriti, though, was undeterred, swiping and lofting to get a four and six off Masabata, before reaching the three-figure mark in 116 balls with a gentle flick going for a single.

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She hit two more boundaries off Ayabonga, before holing out to deep square leg off a slower ball from Masabata, and fall for 117, with the crowd giving her a standing ovation on scoring her seventh ton in women’s international cricket.

Apart from being the second India women’s batter to cross the landmark of 7000 international runs, Smriti also overtook Mithali Raj’s 109 against West Indies in 2011 to claim the new record for the highest ODI score by an Indian batter in women’s ODIs.

Pooja smashed three boundaries in her unbeaten knock and along with Asha hitting a four, she ensured India posted a fairly good total, which was sufficient to register a comprehensive victory.

Brief Scores: India 265/8 in 50 overs (Smriti Mandhana 117, Deepti Sharma 37; Ayabonga Khaka 3-47, Masabata Klass 2-51) beat South Africa 122 in 37.4 overs (Sune Luus 33, Sinalo Jafta 27; Asha Sobhana 4-21, Deepti Sharma 2-10) by 143 runs.

–IANS

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1st ODI: Mandhana’s 117, Sobhana’s 4-21 helps India decimate South Africa by 143 runs

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Bengaluru, June 16 (IANS) Vice-captain Smriti Mandhana slammed a fantastic 117 off 127 balls, also her sixth century in ODIs, while leg-spinner Asha Sobhana shined with a four-wicket haul on debut to setup India’s 143-run thrashing of South Africa at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and begin the multi-format series on a high note.

On a slightly sluggish pitch which offered variable bounce, seam movement and spin, India were reduced to 99/5 at one stage after electing to bat first. But Smriti stood tall, played her shots all over the park and even kept cramps at bay to keep India’s innings together with utmost discipline, control and remarkable composure.

In the process of bailing India out of trouble, Smriti brought up her first ODI century at home, laced with 12 fours and a six, to enthrall an enthusiastic Sunday crowd. She was also well-supported by knocks from Deepti Sharma (37) and Pooja Vastrakar (31) as India crossed 250-mark.

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In reply, Asha’s fine spell of 4-21, where she spun the ball well and got good zip on her deliveries, ensured South Africa were never in the hunt to chase down 269. The Proteas lost wickets at regular intervals and didn’t stitch a long partnership to be bowled out for 122 in 37.4 overs.

Renuka Singh Thakur, Pooja Vastrakar, Deepti Sharma and Radha Yadav were also amongst the wickets and supported Asha very well as India are now 1-0 up in the three-match series. South Africa suffered a big setback in the opening over of the chase as skipper Laura Wolvaardt was castled through the gate by a big nip-backer from Renuka.

Anneke Bosch was next to depart as she was trapped lbw by a seaming in delivery from Pooja Vastrakar which kept low. A returning Tazmin Brits didn’t last long as she came down the pitch for a big shot, but was caught by point off Deepti, who was playing her 200th international match for India. Asha came in to have Marizanne Kapp as her first ODI scalp, as the experienced campaigner cuts the ball straight to cover.

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Scoreboard pressure then resulted in the run-out of Annerie Dercksen and Sune Luus, despite putting up a resistance with 33, missed a sweep off Deepti to be trapped lbw. From there, the result was a foregone conclusion as Radha had Nondumiso Shangase lbw, before Asha took out remaining three wickets to make her ODI debut memorable by sealing a dominant win for India.

Brief Scores: India 265/8 in 50 overs (Smriti Mandhana 117, Deepti Sharma 37; Ayabonga Khaka 3-47, Masabata Klass 2-51) beat South Africa 122 in 37.4 overs (Sune Luus 33, Sinalo Jafta 27; Asha Sobhana 4-21, Deepti Sharma 2-10) by 143 runs

–IANS

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