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Kolkata’s ‘Big 3' have earned bragging rights for city once again: AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey

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Kolkata, April 16 (IANS) The All-India Football Federation (AIFF) President Kalyan Chaubey has hailed the efforts of Kolkata’s ‘Big Three’ clubs in their efforts to revive the glory days of football in the city. Kolkata clubs, Mohun Bagan Super Giant, East Bengal FC and Mohammedan Sporting have won four titles between them in the 2023-24 football season.

Commenting on the success of Kolkata clubs, Chaubey said, “It’s a remarkable year for the Kolkata clubs to bring home four titles this season. Lakhs and lakhs of football fans across the state, having loyalties with the Big Three, are coming together in celebration for Kolkata’s football legacy, which once dominated the sport in the country.”

Mohun Bagan Super Giant began their ISL pre-season campaign with a triumph in the Durand Cup and have gone on to lift the ISL Shield on Monday in front of a record 61,000 home fans at the Salt Lake Stadium. The Maroon and Green will now be aiming to finish the year with another high, with eyes on the Indian Super League trophy.

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Two days before Mohun Bagan’s triumph, the Salt Lake Stadium witnessed another glorious chapter being added to Kolkata’s football history as Mohammedan Sporting lifted the elite I-League trophy to gain promotion to ISL. Earlier in January, East Bengal FC emerged victorious in the Super Cup, thus ending their long trophy drought. “They are the ‘Big Three’ of Kolkata football. They had ruled Indian football in yesteryears and today they are back, helping the city earn bragging rights once again.

“Bringing home the ISL Shield, I-League Trophy, Super Cup, and Durand Cup to West Bengal is a sign of new-age football in the state, and adaptability of these clubs to the newer norms of football.”

Kalyan Chaubey added, “The three giants of Kolkata enjoy enormous fan support in West Bengal, India and globally. I’m sure the success of MB and EB, along with Mohammedan Sporting joining the two in ISL next season, will have a massive impact on Indian Football.”

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–IANS

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La Liga 2023-24: Four things we learned in Spain's Matchday 37

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Madrid, May 20 (IANS) There is nothing left to be decided in the last round of matches in La Liga, after Matchday 37 left every issue resolved. Real Madrid has already clinched the title for season 2023-24 and the fight was for the second and third-place finish, with the fourth spot and the final place in the Champions League already decided.

The rest of the issues were resolved this weekend. Here are some things we learned this weekend in Spain:

1. Sorloth helps Ancelotti

Villarreal forward Alexander Sorloth scored an incredible four goals as his side came back from 4-1 down at home to Real Madrid to draw 4-4, reports Xinhua.

The result isn’t enough to give Villarreal a chance of playing in Europe next season, although it does put Sorloth ahead in the competition for the season’s top scorer with 23 goals this season. The powerful Norwegian gave Real Madrid defender, Eder Militao a torrid time as the Brazilian looks to return to full fitness after his knee injury, and after watching Militao’s struggles, Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti will probably conclude that he still isn’t sharp enough to play in the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund.

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2. Montjuic further clouds questions over Xavi

Two goals from second-half substitute Pedri put some sheen on Barcelona’s 3-0 win at home to Rayo Vallecano after the visitors had created enough chances to equalize Robert Lewandowski’s third-minute opening for Barca.

The win assures Barcelona second place in La Liga and they will compete in the Supercup in Saudi Arabia next January, but doubts remain over the future of coach Xavi Hernandez after his midweek comments about the club’s economic reality. One section of the crowd in a far from full Montjuic chanted Xavi’s name, while others booed the chants.

The atmosphere around the club is dreadful at the moment and when that happens, it’s usually the weakest link (ie the coach) who pays the price.

3. Cadiz’s relegation deserved

Cadiz’s relegation to the second division along with Almeria and Granada was confirmed on Sunday with a 0-0 draw at home to Las Palmas, meaning all three of the teams to go down this season are from the southern region of Andalusia.

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Cadiz is a popular club, with a solid fanbase, but their relegation is fully deserved. The club struggled last season and failed to strengthen sufficiently either over the summer or in January (although Juanmi’s arrival did give them some hope).

They have won just six games this season, with two of those wins coming in the first month and two more in the last three games, and watching them this season, it was clear the squad simply wasn’t good enough to compete with the best.

4. Perfect end in San Mames

Although they have missed out on a place in next season’s Champions League, it has been a perfect few days for Athletic Club Bilbao, with this season’s Cup winners confirming on Friday that Ernesto Valverde will continue as coach next season.

Sunday saw a packed San Mames Stadium say ‘goodbye’ to club captain, Iker Muniain and legend, Raul Garcia, with Muniain leaving after 550 appearances and Raul retiring after over 800 professional appearances. Raul opened the scoring in the 17th minute of Athletic’s 2-0 win at home to Sevilla, with Muniain scoring the second two minutes later in what looked to be a Hollywood-scripted end to their careers.

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The day was completed after the final whistle when the club announced that 35-year-old Oscar de Marcos, who has played 532 times for the club, has signed a new contract, with Muniain passing him the captain’s armband in an emotional ceremony.

–IANS

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Taking wickets is key to stopping batters from big totals in T20s, says Harbhajan Singh

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New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) Former India spinner Harbhajan Singh believes the key to restraining aggressive batting in modern-day cricket lies in the bowlers’ ability to take wickets regularly after the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) 2024 ongoing season saw teams breaching the 200-run mark at ease on multiple occasions.

Harbhajan, who played 103 Tests, 236 ODIs, and 28 T20Is for India, emphasised that bowlers should aim for wickets even at the cost of conceding runs. He shared his insights in Episode 5 of the podcast series ‘180 Not Out’.

“I believe that any bowler who says he can stop the run flow is not true. Be it Lasith Malinga, there has never been a better bowler than him in the T20 world. Jasprit Bumrah is that in the modern-day cricket. You can only break the momentum after taking a wicket. To take wickets, you need to bowl well,” Harbhajan told Raman Raheja, sports-preneur, media professional, and creator who put together this Podcast ‘180 Not Out’.

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The veteran player said that going for wickets in the shortest format is the only way out for the bowlers.

“With skill, you can take wickets, not that with fluke you took a wicket, bowled the full toss ball and got the batter out. But that will not happen again. The full-toss ball will concede six more than getting a wicket. Economy rate will only improve when you try for a wicket,” he said. “That’s what I think should be the mindset. Whenever I have played any format, T20s, Tests, or ODIs, I look to take wickets. In that process, even if you concede some runs at the cost of 2-3 wickets, you have done your job. That should be the mindset,” the spinner added.

The podcast series was also graced by former Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir. The star batter expressed his views on the issue of two new balls being used in ODI cricket.

“Two new balls in one-day cricket is probably the worst thing that can happen to One-day cricket. Imagine how many finger spinners play one-day cricket. There’s Nathan Lyon who’s got 400 wickets, there’s R. Ashwin who’s got 400 wickets, and they are not a part of the One Day team, and the only reason is that there is nothing for a finger spinner,” said Gambhir.

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“Imagine someone who has taken 400 test wickets will not play one-day cricket because they don’t become a wicket-taking option, or they end up becoming a defensive option. The reverse swing has gone out of the game completely. I want to see reverse swing, I want to see batters getting challenged, and someone bowling at 150 and reversing the ball is always a challenge. One rule that needs to change is getting rid of two new balls and having only one,” he added.

–IANS

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Copa America: Brazil add Bremer, Ederson, Pepe to squad; name replacement for injured goalkeeper

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Rio de Janeiro, May 20 (IANS) Brazil have added three more players to their Copa America squad after the competition’s organising body – CONMEBOL — expanded the team’s members to 26 from 23. The Copa America runners-up have added Juventus defender Bremer, Atalanta midfielder Ederson and Porto forward Pepe. Brazil head coach Dorival Junior also called up goalkeeper Rafael, from Sao Paulo. He will replace Ederson, from Manchester City, who suffered a fractured face.

The Brazilian goalkeeper was injured when he collided with Romero in the 2-0 victory over Tottenham in the Premier League clash last week. “All athletes, regardless of when they are called up, arrive on equal terms to compete and fight for a position within the starting team”, the coach said.

CONMEBOL also agreed to extend the deadline for presenting the definitive list of players registered for the Copa America to June 15.

Brazil will play two friendlies before the start of the competition. The first will be against Mexico at Kyle Field, in College Station, Texas on June 8. The second friendly will be against the United States at Camping World Stadium, in Orlando, Florida on June 12.

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Brazil’s opening match in the Copa America will be against Costa Rica in Los Angeles on June 24. Colombia and Paraguay are also placed in Brazil’s group. The quadrennial tournament will be held in the United States from June 20 to July 14.

–IANS

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Women’s CPL to run from August 21-29; three double-headers alongside WI-SA men’s T20Is

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St. John’s (Antigua), May 20 (IANS) The 2024 Women’s Caribbean Premier League (CPL) will be held in Trinidad from August 21-29, with three of the gamedays to be part of double-headers alongside three Men’s T20Is between West Indies and South Africa. It will be the first time that the men’s international cricket games will be part of a double-header with a women’s franchise T20 competition games. The three double-headers will take place at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Trinidad on August 23, 25 and 27 respectively.

“Women’s cricket continues to be a strategic priority for Cricket West Indies, and this is another exciting new concept for WCPL 2024. We are certain that there will be huge interest from people in Trinidad in these double headers, as fans will be able to watch world-class international Men’s cricket, followed by the best female cricketers in the region competing alongside some of the best overseas players in the world,” said Johnny Grave, CEO of Cricket West Indies, in a statement.

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The inaugural edition of the Women’s CPL was held in 2023, with the Hayley Matthews-led Barbados Royals winning the title. A total of seven matches, including the final, were held between three teams -– Barbados Royals, Guyana Amazon Warriors, and Trinbago Knight Riders.

“We are very excited to be able to work with Cricket West Indies to have the WCPL take place at the same time as these Men’s T20 Internationals. It is another example of how the two organisations are working in harmony to provide the best outcome for fans, players, and cricket in the region. We look forward to another successful WCPL as the tournament continues to grow year on year,” said Pete Russell, CPL CEO.

–IANS

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Pakistan head coach Gary Kirsten meets players ahead of England T20Is

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Leeds, May 20 (IANS) Pakistan’s newly appointed white-ball head coach Gary Kirsten held a first team meeting with the squad on Monday ahead of the first Twenty20 International against England, scheduled to be played on May 22. Kirsten joined the Pakistan squad in Leeds on Sunday for the first time after taking the limited-overs coaching role. He headed for England after ending his coaching stint with the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Gujarat Titans, who missed out on a playoff berth. He was helming the job of the team’s batting coach and mentor.

Pakistan are slated to play four T20Is against England in the lead-up to next month’s T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the USA.

The 56-year-old South African was confirmed as the white-ball head coach along with Jason Gillespie as the red-ball head coach last month. The Australian will arrive in Pakistan in July for August’s ICC World Test Championship fixtures against Bangladesh to start his journey.

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Apart from next month’s T20 World Cup 2024 and other bilateral white-ball series, Kirsten will be the head coach for the ICC Champions Trophy 2025 in Pakistan, the T20 World Cup 2026 in India and Sri Lanka, and the ACC T20 Asia Cup 2025.

The first T20I between Pakistan and England will be played at Headingley, Leeds on Wednesday.

–IANS

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