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Mitchell Marsh says recovery from hamstring going really well, hopes to get things right in next three weeks

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Perth, May 2 (IANS) Australia’s new men’s T20I captain Mitchell Marsh said he hopes to get things right in the next three weeks to recover from hamstring injury and achieve full fitness to be ready in time for the World Cup in the USA and the West Indies, when Australia play their first game against Oman on June 6 in Barbados.

Marsh has been out of action since April 3 clash for Delhi Capitals due to a right hamstring strain. He flew back home to Perth from IPL 2024 in India to begin his recovery, with Cricket Australia taking charge of it. Eventually, Marsh was ruled out of DC’s campaign, with them drafting Afghanistan all-rounder Gulbadin Naib as his replacement.

“If we had to play tomorrow, I’d be in a bit of trouble. Still a couple of weeks away (from full fitness). The timing probably sits perfectly, barring no setbacks. I’ll be on the plane, ready to go.”

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“The hammy is good, it’s coming along really well. It’s pretty much exactly where we want it to be. It’s one of those things. Just got to get it right over the next three weeks and get on the plane,” said Marsh to reporters in Perth on Thursday.

The 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup will be Marsh’s first full-time event as Australia’s skipper in the shortest format, after holding the position in an interim capacity. “Just really proud. It’s not every day you get to captain Australia and lead them to a World Cup. That’s very exciting. But I think one of the best things about our team is that there’s a lot of great leaders in our group.”

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to not change too much. There’s a lot of preparation and planning that goes into a World Cup, and that’ll happen over the next month. But once we get there, it’s keeping everything nice and relaxed, keeping the environment good, and making sure we go out there and give it our all,” he added.

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Marsh also revealed he’s in constant communication with ODI and Test skipper Pat Cummins, who captained Australia to World Test Championship and ODI World Cup triumphs last year. For the T20 World Cup, Cummins will be playing under Marsh’s captaincy.

“We’re always in communication as mates and, I guess, as leaders. But no real conversations around the cricket side of things, just always checking in on each other. We’re great mates so I’m looking forward to working with him over the next period of time.”

Marsh signed off by backing the veteran David Warner to come good in Australia’s T20 World Cup campaign in what will also be his event as an international cricketer after retiring from Tests and ODIs earlier this year. Warner is currently recovering from a hand injury while batting in DC’s match against Lucknow Super Giants on April 12.

Though he played in the match against Sunrisers Hyderabad on April 20, Warner has been out of action since then. “It’s been a long last hurrah, hasn’t it for Davey? We’re always really excited to have him in the team. Just the experience that he brings.”

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“I think if we look back at his career. There’s been so many big moments that you need your big experienced players to stand up and Davey has always been one of those. So we’re lucky to have him.”

–IANS

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Nagal loses Challengers final in Perugia

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Perugia, June 17 (IANS) Sumit Nagal’s remarkable run on the ATP Challenger Tour met a formidable obstacle as he fell short in the final of the Perugia Challenger, succumbing to World No. 37 Luciano Darderi in a brisk 62-minute match.

The final score, 6-1, 6-2, did little justice to Nagal’s recent surge in form and tenacity on the court. Having played 10 matches in the last 12 days, including a triumphant campaign in Heilbronn, Germany, where he clinched the sixth Challenger title of his career, Nagal had propelled himself to new heights in the ATP Rankings.

Nagal’s victory in Germany was a testament to his grit and skill, propelling him to a career-high ranking of 77 and virtually securing his spot in the men’s singles event at the Paris Olympics. However, the physical toll of his relentless schedule became evident in Perugia. The 26-year-old Indian entered the final after a grueling three-set semifinal battle against Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles, which left him visibly fatigued against a fresher opponent in Darderi.

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Darderi, the top-seeded Italian, wasted no time asserting his dominance, breaking Nagal thrice to take the first set in just 27 minutes. Nagal, showing glimpses of his resilience, managed to break Darderi’s eight-game winning streak by leveling the second set at 1-2.

However, the Italian swiftly regained control, breaking Nagal again in the sixth game to establish a 4-2 lead. Darderi’s relentless pressure proved too much, and he broke Nagal for the sixth time while the Indian was serving to stay in the match, sealing his victory.

Despite the defeat, Nagal’s remarkable journey in recent weeks has seen him rise to 71 in the live ATP Rankings. This ascent has significant historical resonance, as it places him above the legendary Leander Paes, who achieved a career-high ranking of 73.

Nagal now stands joint-fourth on the all-time list of highest-ranked Indian men since the advent of computerised rankings in 1973, sharing the spot with Sashi Menon and trailing only behind Somdev Devvarman (62), Ramesh Krishnan (23), and Vijay Amritraj (18).

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–IANS

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Mewar Premier League trophy unveiled in Udaipur

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Udaipur, June 16 (IANS) The much-anticipated trophy for the Mewar Premier League, which is set to begin from June 19, was unveiled on Friday in a grand ceremony at the Wonder Cricket Academy, Shikarbadi Cricket Ground

The Mewar Premier League is scheduled to take place from June 19 to June 28. The District Franchise League, held at the Wonder Cricket Academy Shikarbadi Cricket Ground, will feature day and night matches.

The unveiling of the trophy has set the stage for a thrilling series of matches in the heart of Udaipur, generating immense excitement and anticipation. The Mewar Premier League aims to promote cricketing talent and also to unite communities through the universal love for the sport, creating lasting memories and inspiring future generations of cricketers.

The event was graced by Gautam Ji Dak, cooperative and civil aviation minister, Government of Rajasthan. The ceremony saw the presence of several prominent figures, including the chairman of Mewar Premier League, Manoj Choudary, and the Founder of 100 Sports, Ravindra Bhati, along with other members of the Udaipur District Cricket Association (UDCA).

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Speaking about the Mewar Premier League, Gautam Ji Dak, said, “There is a new environment of sports in the country. UDCA has been working well for the game of cricket and I wish them well for the future. 100 Sports is also doing a good job under the guidance of Ravindra Bhati and I want everyone to come together and promote the game both at the national and international level. My message for fans is the City of Lakes might become the city of players after the Mewar Premier League.”

Jointly organised by the Udaipur District Cricket Association and 100 Sports, the League will feature, six formidable teams representing various districts of Mewar. Players such as Ashok Sharma, Shubham Garhwal, Mohit Jain, Aditya Garhwal will feature in the tournament.

–IANS

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Archery: Bhajan Kaur claims gold, secures Olympic quota for India

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Antalya, June 16 (IANS) 18-year-old archer Bhajan Kaur clinched a gold medal in the recurve women’s individual event, securing India a coveted quota place for the Paris 2024 Olympics at the Final Olympic Qualifier on Sunday.

Kaur’s triumph comes as a beacon of hope for Indian archery, especially after seasoned archer Deepika Kumari’s unexpected early exit.

Despite the early setback when second-ranked Deepika Kumari, who received two byes, was defeated 6-4 by Azerbaijan’s Yaylagul Ramazanova in her first match, Kaur and Ankita Bhakat carried the torch forward. The competition allowed only one individual quota per country, and Kaur’s exceptional performance ensured India claimed this spot.

Ranked third in the tournament, Kaur showcased her prowess throughout the event. After receiving two byes, she overcame Mongolia’s Urantungalag Bishindee 6-2, Slovakia’s Ursa Cavic 7-3, and Poland’s Wioleta Myszor 6-0 to secure her place in the quarterfinals. Her winning streak continued as she defeated Moldova’s Alexandra Mirca 6-2 in the semifinals and Iran’s Mobina Fallah 6-2 in the final, earning her the gold medal and an Olympic berth for India.

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Ankita Bhakat, seeded ninth, also delivered a commendable performance. She received two byes and then defeated Israel’s Shelley Hilton 6-4, Mikaella Moshe 7-3, and the Philippines’ Gabrielle Monica Bidaure 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals. However, Bhakat’s journey ended in the quarters with a close 6-4 loss to Iran’s Mobina Fallah.

Despite the successes of Kaur and Bhakat, the Indian men’s and women’s recurve teams faced early exits, missing out on the team quotas which would have allowed India to field three men and three women at the Olympics. However, hope remains as both teams are positioned at the top among the countries that have yet to secure team quotas. Their standings in the world rankings offer another route to qualification.

–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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