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'Results in Asian Championships will be key': American expert Steve Butcher has high hopes from Indian gymnasts

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Mumbai, Feb 29 (IANS) A couple of Indian gymnasts stand a good chance of qualifying for the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris in July-September this year and Steve Bucher, Program Director, of the high-performance centre in Bhubaneswar, feels the upcoming Asian Championships in May will be very crucial for them.

The Olympic qualification programme for Artistic Gymnastics includes participants doing well in three World Cup events and the Continental Championship. Gymnasts topping the list in the three World Cups in their respective disciplines and those winning medals in the Continental Championships stand a chance of making it to Paris.

Top Indian gymnast, Pranati Nayak won a bronze medal in the first FIG Artistic Gymnastics Apparatus World Cup 2024 in Cairo a few days back while compatriot Dipa Karmakar finished fifth in the same event. Both will now be participating in the next two events on the World Cup circuit, and the 11th Senior Asian Championships to be held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, from May 24-26.

Having seen Pranati Nayak from close quarters as she prepares at the Odisha AM/NS Gymnastics High-Performance Centre at the Kalinga Stadium Complex in Bhubaneswar, Steve Bucher says all the stakeholders are working hard to help the gymnasts put up their best in the qualifying programme and grab a ticket to Paris.

“Well, right now we don’t have any gymnasts that have qualified yet from India and the two opportunities are the World Cup circuit and the Asian Championships, which will be in May. And so everybody’s working, the athletes, the coaches and administration to be sure that our gymnasts, not only in Odisha but in the country, are doing their best to try to qualify,” Butcher, who is from the United States and has a long association with the sport, told IANS over the phone from Rourkela where the Odisha government has started a second training centre for gymnastics.

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Butcher, who is president, Men’s Technical Committee, of the International Gymnastics Association (FIG), on Thursday attended selection trials for gymnasts in the age group of 6-10 for the Rourkela centre. In all 50 children participated in the preliminary trials of which the coaches shortlisted 20 for the next stage.

Having seen the gymnastics scene in the country from close quarters due to his association with the Odisha centre, Steve Butcher says Indian gymnastics is on an upward trajectory.

“Well, everyone in the world knows that Indian gymnastics overall is on its way up. For example, I think one major factor will be in the future what Odisha is really doing. It’s a model for most countries of the world,” said Butcher, an Executive Committee member of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) since 2013, is Sports Director for the FIG for the last five years and is also Director of Gymnastics Operations at Premier Athletics Knoxville, Tennessee since April 2006.

Asked how the Odisha AM/NS HPT has impacted Indian gymnastics, Butcher, who has been associated with the sport as a top judge, coach and administrator for three decades, said the Asian Championships in May will indicate that.

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“Well, the most important thing is the centre has been open only a short time, but already we’re seeing the results from the World Cup, recent World Cup and the big plan is to see results at the Asian Championship in May. But the most important mission right now is to grow the base and the grassroots, to have a much larger base of younger gymnasts that are competing in the sport so that even greater achievement can be secured in the future,” said Butcher.

The seasoned expert said besides talent spotting at the grassroots level, India needs a well-developed programme for the sport and trained coaches to impart correct technique during the formative age.

“Well, talent identification is one part. That’s the first part, the first step. But the next most important phase is the program and the coaching. There’s no substitute for those two.

“I’m not the biggest proponent of short-term coaches visiting, yes, but that’s not really what’s going to move the country forward. And in Odisha, for example, we hired one men’s and one women’s artistic coach to be here and living (in the centre) all the time because that’s really the best route towards success. They’re not only improving the gymnasts but also training the coaches on an everyday basis. And just for the Indian coaches in this and to listen to what they’re saying, I think is critical,” said Butcher.

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Asked about the role of the federation (Gymnastics Federation of India) and the government in such programmes, Butcher said their role is to provide a stable competitive programme.

“Well, for any federation or the government is to have a stable overall competitive program and with that stable program, everybody will work through that program toward greater success. And I know right now the program of the federation is under review and they’re trying to revitalize that program with the help of many coaches from outside of India,” he said.

Butcher is confident with a good programme in place, India will be able to harness the abundant talent in the country and will once again be contending for a medal at the Olympic Games, just like Dipa Karmakar did in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, narrowly missing the bronze medal as she finished fourth, the best performance by any Indian gymnast in the mega event so far.

Since then Pranati Nayak has qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, earning a continental quota spot despite being unable to continue her regular training because of the Covid-19 pandemic. She eventually finished 79th in the All-around category in Tokyo.

Now Pranati is hoping to qualify in the vault discipline and do better than in her first attempt at the Olympics.

–IANS

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Ratnagiri Jets thump Nashik Titans to defend MPL crown

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Pune, June 23 (IANS) Ratnagiri Jets thumped Eagle Nashik Titans by 24 runs to defend their Maharashtra Premier League (MPL) title at the MCA International Stadium.

The first innings saw a below-par score of 160 and it looked like an easy task for the Titans but a clinical bowling performance won the Ratnagiri Jets their second title in a row.

In 2023, they were declared winners after their final against PBG Kolhapur Tuskers was abandoned due to inclement weather.

“We are very happy to able to achieve this historic feat of winning the MPL twice in a row. Everyone has really played their part well and taken responsibility that has steered the Ratnagiri Jets to victory. We have consistently played good cricket and winning this trophy again feels great,” said Azim Kazi, Captain, Ratnagiri Jets

Left-arm spinners choked Nashik with Satyajeet Bachhav’s (4-1-31-4), also winning the purple cap with 26 wickets. He found a formidable bowling partner in fellow left-arm spinner Kunal Thorat (4-0-19-2) as Ratnagiri overpowered Nashik.

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Three of Bachhav’s four scalps – Kaushal Tambe, Atharva Kale, and Mukesh Chaudhary – were bowled while Ranjit Nikam (3, 6b) holed out to Divyang Hinganekar. From the other end, Thorat dismissed Arshin Kulkarni and dangerous Dhanraj Shinde (3, 6b) to leave Nashik tottering 79 for 7.

At the end of the power play, Nashik were 31 for 2. India U-19 star Arshin Kulkarni (9, 13b, 1×4), who was struggling with an injury and former India U-19 player Kaushal Tambe (9, 17b, 2x4s) could not rotate the strike nor could they clear the ropes and paid the price for it.

Earlier, a 44-run partnership for the fifth wicket between two youngsters – Kiran Chormale (35, 23b, 3x4s, 2×6) and Abhishek Pawar (28, 22b, 3x6s) helped Ratnagiri recover from 56 for 4.

Former KKR player Nikhil Naik (36, 25b, 3x4s, 1×6) once again played a cameo to guide Ratnagiri to 160 for 8, a score which in turn proved more than enough.

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“We are so proud of what this team has achieved. History has repeated itself and it is testament to the plans set in motion over the year, long before the tournament started. This result is a true reflection of the hard work, dedication and the sheer superior grassroot Maharashtra talent that will shape the future of cricket not only in the state but the country and the world.

“We will continue to invest in building the grassroots and producing many cricketing superstars in the future,” Rajan Navani, Owner, Ratnagiri Jets said.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: What changes Afghanistan's epic win over Australia brings to SF scenarios

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Kingstown, June 23 (IANS) Afghanistan’s epic 21-run victory against Australia has thrown Group 1 of Super Eight stage of the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup wide open. With just four games left in closing out Super Eights stage of the tournament, IANS looks at what teams need to do to be in contention to enter the semifinals.

In Group 1, India are seated on top of the table with four points and net run rate of 2.425, which makes them prime contenders to enter the semifinals. A win against Australia at St Lucia on Monday will help India retain top spot in Group 1.

But a loss, especially heavier, could see them being overtaken by Australia and even by Afghanistan if they win with a huge margin over Bangladesh at St Vincent. If India do qualify for the semis they will play their semifinal game in Guyana on June 27.

For Australia, things are dire after being at two points and their net run rate going down to +0.223 after a shock defeat to Afghanistan. A win against India will likely see Australia qualify for the semi-finals, while a loss to the Rohit Sharmaled side will leave a chance for either Afghanistan or Bangladesh to qualify for the semifinals.

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Meanwhile, Afghanistan can qualify for the semifinals with another win against Bangladesh in their final Super Eights match. Their task can become easier if India beat Australia earlier in the day, which will help them know by what margin they need to beat Bangladesh to claim their semifinals spot.

Despite defeats to India and Australia, Bangladesh are also in the mix and need to win by at least 30 runs to sneak ahead of Afghanistan and would require for Australia to lose heavily to India if they are to enter the semifinals.

In Group 2, things are still interesting ahead of the business end of Super Eights. South Africa, unbeaten in the competition so far, need to win big against tournament co-hosts West Indies to ensure they top their group and setup a semifinal clash with the second-placed side in Group 1.

West Indies need to defeat South Africa to reach the semifinals. If they lose, they would have to rely on USA defeating England at Barbados and ensure their net run rate doesn’t suffer a huge dent.

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Defending champions England need a victory over the USA in their final Super Eight contest to reach the semifinals, coupled with a South Africa win over West Indies. Even if a washout happens in Barbados, England would need for South Africa to emerge victorious.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Viv Richards presents best fielding medal to SKY after India beat Bangladesh

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North Sound (Antigua), June 23 (IANS) After India’s 50-run win over Bangladesh in the T20 World Cup Super Eight match, West Indies great Sir Vivian Richards presented the fielder of the match medal to Suryakumar Yadav.

Suryakumar despite the windy conditions in Antigua took a running catch to dismiss Litton Das.

Team India’s fielding coach T Dilip announced that the award will be presented by the West Indies great, after whom the Vivian Richards Stadium is named.

“Today we have a true legend, whose name is synonymours with fearless play and unmatched charizma on the field. The game0changer in every sense, who showed that in every sense; what it means striving for greatness. Its none other than Sir Vivian Richards,” said Dilip in the video shared by BCCI on social media.

After presenting Suryakumar best fielder medal, Richards said, “I can only say that if they guys in Maroon doesn’t get it done, I will be back in your room,” he laughed.

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Richards also hailed Rishabh Pant for his comeback after the accident and said, “Pant its great to see you back man after what you have been through. We would have missed the great talent and exactly what you have to offer in the future.”

The Windies great concluded with hailing the India’s performance in the tournament so far.

–IANS

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Euros and Copa America fever spreads in football-mad pockets of cricket-crazy India

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New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) The Euro 2024 and Copa America are both underway as the hype and excitement to watch, the biggest stars of world football representing their respective countries, has already begun to spread throughout India like wildfire.

A country that has historically adopted cricket as its main sport is not that far behind in football when it comes to passion. Fans are regularly seen at screenings in hotspots in various major cities while repping their favourite team’s jersey. Here’s a deeper dive into the rooted fixations that fans from all over the country have for their favourite players.

“In Kolkata, people are traditionally more of a FIFA World Cup and South American football fans. People are majorly neutral about European nations unless it’s Brazil, Argentina, or other South American powerhouses,” told a passionate football lover from Kolkata to IANS.

If one has to look for football fans in our country, then one would have to look no further than Kolkata, the city that breathes football. The fans went on to talk about the love the people have because of their roots and historical connection to such countries.

“With that said, there are parts of Kolkata where people are mad about England because of the colonial regime. There is a place called Bow Barracks where Anglo-Indians support the English, Dutch, and Scots because of their European roots. If you look on the outskirts of Kolkata, you will find your actual goldmine in Euro Football.

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“There is a place called Chandannagar in Hooghly district, the locals support France because the locality was under French rule until the independence of India. The Churches, Chapels, and a French diaspora help it to boost the French connections there,” added the die-hard Mohun Bagan supporter.

In previous editions of the Euros, Copa Americas, and the World Cups, social media has heavily highlighted the unreal passion that is on display by fans from Kerala. The 40-foot cutouts of Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar went viral not just in India but across the globe as FIFA also applauded the dedication and passion of the home fans.

“Here in Kerala, the fan bases for European teams are quite fragmented. This contrasts with the Copa America, where there’s a clear and intense rivalry between fans of Brazil and Argentina. That being said, Spain’s national team has significant support in Kerala, particularly due to their era of dominance and the magical style of play characterised by players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and David Villa.

“Their brand of technical, possession-based football (tiki-taka) has created a lasting affection for the team. I would say that the love for La Liga, especially for teams like Real Madrid and FC Barcelona has contributed to the support for the Spanish national side. The Portugal team also enjoys a massive following among the mallu youth, mainly because of their love for Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been the poster boy for the Portuguese side for quite a few years,” a football fan hailing from Kerala told IANS.

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When it comes to recent times, the focal point of the sports events in the country has slowly transitioned from places like Kolkata and Mumbai to Ahmedabad. The city is filled with passionate football fans and one spoke fondly about the love that the city has for Ronaldo.

“I remember back in the day, we used to have a CR7 club in Ahmedabad. And I vividly remember how they took to the streets after Portugal won in 2016. 2021 was the year of COVID but I can guarantee you this year, places like TopSpin (club) will be packed especially when Portugal play. And given this is Ronaldo’s last Euros, who knows if he goes on to win it then the underground community of CR7 lovers will definitely have a little stroll past the Sabarmati Riverfront at night,” a Real Madrid fan and resident of Ahmedabad told IANS.

Messi and Ronaldo have been the epicentre of world football for the past two decades. The ongoing Euros have been a stepping stone that has displayed amazing talent from youngsters in the likes of Yamine Lamal and Jamal Musiala. One particular fan discussed his bond with the hosts of the 2024 Euros and how he watches the games despite being away from his home as he is currently studying in Punjab.

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“I have been a huge admirer of German football since 2010, and watching them go from Schweinsteiger and Muller to now Musiala and Wirtz has been nothing short of a crazy experience. The good part is that I am not alone, people here in Punjab are mad about football too. The excitement during the Euros is very visible here, with match screenings being set up in every possible corner of the town. It felt like an occasion during the 2022 World Cup when artists came to perform on screenings before the semifinals or the final, and I expect nothing less during the Euros.

“The local grounds are booked to capacity with a screen set up right in the middle of the ground, which makes sure the vibes are immaculate, and I expect nothing less. The arrangements plus the ample space in front of it make it the place to be during a match. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that it is very similar to the famous Boxpark in London,” said the admirer of German football to IANS.

Indian football fans over the years have grown accustomed to foreign fans trolling and questioning their dedication to international football but despite having to watch matches at ungodly hours and living in a country where cricket dominates all sporting discussions, the footballing fraternity has built a strong and unbreakable community to express their love for the beautiful game.

–IANS

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Football: Euro and Copa America fever spreads like wildfire through cricket crazy India

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New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) The Euro 2024 and Copa America are both underway as the hype and excitement to watch, the biggest stars of world football representing their respective countries, has already begun to spread throughout India like wildfire.

A country that has historically adopted cricket as its main sport is not that far behind in football when it comes to passion. Fans are regularly seen at screenings in hotspots in various major cities while repping their favourite team’s jersey. Here’s a deeper dive into the rooted fixations that fans from all over the country have for their favourite players.

“In Kolkata, people are traditionally more of a FIFA World Cup and South American football fans. People are majorly neutral about European nations unless it’s Brazil, Argentina, or other South American powerhouses,” told a passionate football lover from Kolkata to IANS.

If one has to look for football fans in our country, then one would have to look no further than Kolkata, the city that breathes football. The fans went on to talk about the love the people have because of their roots and historical connection to such countries.

“With that said, there are parts of Kolkata where people are mad about England because of the colonial regime. There is a place called Bow Barracks where Anglo-Indians support the English, Dutch, and Scots because of their European roots. If you look on the outskirts of Kolkata, you will find your actual goldmine in Euro Football.

ALSO READ:  IPL 2024: ‘Chennai Super Kings should be called Chepauk Super Kings’, says Aakash Chopra

“There is a place called Chandannagar in Hooghly district, the locals support France because the locality was under French rule until the independence of India. The Churches, Chapels, and a French diaspora help it to boost the French connections there,” added the die-hard Mohun Bagan supporter.

In previous editions of the Euros, Copa Americas, and the World Cups, social media has heavily highlighted the unreal passion that is on display by fans from Kerala. The 40-foot cutouts of Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar went viral not just in India but across the globe as FIFA also applauded the dedication and passion of the home fans.

“Here in Kerala, the fan bases for European teams are quite fragmented. This contrasts with the Copa America, where there’s a clear and intense rivalry between fans of Brazil and Argentina. That being said, Spain’s national team has significant support in Kerala, particularly due to their era of dominance and the magical style of play characterised by players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and David Villa.

“Their brand of technical, possession-based football (tiki-taka) has created a lasting affection for the team. I would say that the love for La Liga, especially for teams like Real Madrid and FC Barcelona has contributed to the support for the Spanish national side. The Portugal team also enjoys a massive following among the mallu youth, mainly because of their love for Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been the poster boy for the Portuguese side for quite a few years,” a football fan hailing from Kerala told IANS.

ALSO READ:  WPL: UP Warriorz beat Mumbai Indians by seven wickets

When it comes to recent times, the focal point of the sports events in the country has slowly transitioned from places like Kolkata and Mumbai to Ahmedabad. The city is filled with passionate football fans and one spoke fondly about the love that the city has for Ronaldo.

“I remember back in the day, we used to have a CR7 club in Ahmedabad. And I vividly remember how they took to the streets after Portugal won in 2016. 2021 was the year of COVID but I can guarantee you this year, places like TopSpin (club) will be packed especially when Portugal play. And given this is Ronaldo’s last Euros, who knows if he goes on to win it then the underground community of CR7 lovers will definitely have a little stroll past the Sabarmati Riverfront at night,” a Real Madrid fan and resident of Ahmedabad told IANS.

Messi and Ronaldo have been the epicentre of world football for the past two decades. The ongoing Euros have been a stepping stone that has displayed amazing talent from youngsters in the likes of Yamine Lamal and Jamal Musiala. One particular fan discussed his bond with the hosts of the 2024 Euros and how he watches the games despite being away from his home as he is currently studying in Punjab.

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“I have been a huge admirer of German football since 2010, and watching them go from Schweinsteiger and Muller to now Musiala and Wirtz has been nothing short of a crazy experience. The good part is that I am not alone, people here in Punjab are mad about football too. The excitement during the Euros is very visible here, with match screenings being set up in every possible corner of the town. It felt like an occasion during the 2022 World Cup when artists came to perform on screenings before the semifinals or the final, and I expect nothing less during the Euros.

“The local grounds are booked to capacity with a screen set up right in the middle of the ground, which makes sure the vibes are immaculate, and I expect nothing less. The arrangements plus the ample space in front of it make it the place to be during a match. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that it is very similar to the famous Boxpark in London,” said the admirer of German football to IANS.

Indian football fans over the years have grown accustomed to foreign fans trolling and questioning their dedication to international football but despite having to watch matches at ungodly hours and living in a country where cricket dominates all sporting discussions, the footballing fraternity has built a strong and unbreakable community to express their love for the beautiful game.

–IANS

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