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UTT 2024: Jaipur Patriots draft Sreeja Akula with first pick as teams take shape for new season

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UTT 2024: Jaipur Patriots draft Sreeja Akula with first pick as teams take shape for new season

Mumbai, July 10 (IANS) The Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) franchises put their thinking caps on and found a way to pick the best possible squads for UTT 2024 at the Player Draft here on Wednesday. The upcoming season of the league is scheduled to be held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai from August 22 to September 7 and will feature eight teams for the first time and a total of 48 players, including 16 foreigners.

Newcomers Jaipur Patriots, who got the first pick in Round 1, went for in-form India star and current World No. 25 Sreeja Akula, who recently became the first Indian to clinch a WTT Contender singles title.

Puneri Paltan Table Tennis, who chose not to retain a player, picked Ayhika Mukherjee to kick off proceedings. Ahmedabad SG Pipers, the other franchise to make their UTT debut, went for Manush Shah as their first choice and then bagged the services of women’s World No.10 Bernadette Szocs of Romania in the second round.

The franchise-based league is promoted by Niraj Bajaj and Vita Dani under the auspices of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI). “Today’s Player Draft is a testimony to the fact that some of the best players in the world now want to come and play in the UTT. We are very excited for UTT 2024. This is the first time we have eight teams, and we want to make this even bigger and better. We wish all the teams the best of luck for the upcoming season,” said UTT promoters Vita Dani and Niraj Bajaj.

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A total of 48 players, including 16 foreigners, will be in action as teams finalised their six-member squads after the Player Draft.

“More or less, what we had discussed and strategised we got what we wanted. We wanted Sreeja and we got her in the first pick. We have a strong squad and we are confident that we can go all the way,” said Jaipur Patriots COO Imran Shaikh.

“SG Sports prides itself in getting a balanced team with excellent support staff, and we hope to create an environment of camaraderie and togetherness in the team. We’ve enjoyed success in other leagues and other sports with this same formula, so just looking to continue the same thing,” said Kartikeya Rao of Ahmedabad SG Pipers.

U Mumba TT went with the tried and tested formula by once again picking Nigerian star paddler and World No.19 Aruna Quadri. They also picked Asian Games bronze medallist Sutirtha Mukherjee. “Really glad about the way the draft went for us at U Mumba. There are no gaping holes in our squad. We were a bit worried about certain areas before the draft, but things worked out quite well and overall, I am very happy with the balance we have got,” said U Mumba CEO Suhail Chandhok.

PBG Bengaluru Smashers will have Alvaro Robles of Spain and Lily Zhang of the USA to support their retained star, Manika Batra.

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“I am extremely happy with the squad we have got. Having retained Manika Batra, we have managed to pick the experienced duo of Alvaro Robles and Lily Zhang as foreign internationals, with Anthony Amalraj and Jeet Chandra as the perfect support cast for Indian men’s paddlers. Talented young paddler Taneesha Kotecha also comes as a great addition, and we are confident that this team will present a strong challenge,” said PBG Bengaluru Smashers owner Punit Balan.

Defending champions Goa Challengers, who had retained India star Harmeet Desai ahead of the draft, have a completely new look. They picked Yangzi Liu of Australia alongside young Indian paddlers Yashaswini Ghorpade and Sayali Wani. Mihai Bobocica of Italy, who had competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, will be their foreign men’s paddler.

“The drafting process is always very exciting, although we were a tad unlucky with pick number five during the drafting process. We had the same pick last year and we won the trophy. Hoping to replicate the same this year,” commented Vivek Bhargava, the owner of Goa Challengers.

Last edition’s runners-up Chennai Lions also went for a fresh look, with Japan’s Sakura Mori, Frenchman Jules Rolland, and local stars Poymantee Baisya, Mouma Das, and Abhinandh P.B. joining Indian table tennis legend Achanta Sharath Kamal, who was retained by the team. “We have a very mature team, some youngsters as well, but generally a very mature team. I’m quite happy with the picks that we’ve got considering the spot,” said G.S Ravi, owner of Chennai Lions.

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Dabang Delhi will rely on Sathiyan G. along with Andreas Levenko of Austria. They also added young Indian paddlers Diya Chitale, Lakshita Narang, and Yashansh Malik to their squad.

“The draft was good for us. We anticipated we had an auction strategy in place, and for us, it has worked out well. The majority of the players that we had anticipated as part of the strategy we’ve got there,” said Durganath Wagle, CEO, Dabang Delhi TTC.

Squads:

Ahmedabad SG Pipers: Manush Shah, Bernadette Szocs (Romania), Lilian Bardet (France), Reeth Tennison, Pritha Vartikar, Jash Modi

Chennai Lions: Achanta Sharath Kamal, Sakura Mori (Japan), Jules Rolland (France), Poymantee Baisya, Mouma Das, Abhinandh PB

Dabang Delhi TTC: Sathiyan G, Orawan Paranang (Thailand), Diya Chitale, Andreas Levenko (Austria), Yashansh Malik, Lakshita Narang

Goa Challengers: Harmeet Desai, Yangzi Liu (Australia), Yashaswini Ghorpade, Sudhanshu Grover, Sayali Wani, Mihai Bobocica (Italy)

Jaipur Patriots: Sreeja Akula, Cho Seungmin (South Korea), Suthasini Sawettabut (Thailand), Snehit SFR, Ronit Bhanja, Moumita Dutta

PBG Bengaluru Smashers: Manika Batra, Alvaro Robles (Spain), Lily Zhang (USA), Jeet Chandra, Taneesha Kotecha, Amalraj Anthony

Puneri Paltan Table Tennis: Ayhika Mukherjee, Nina Mittelham (Germany), Joao Monteiro (Portugal), Ankur Bhattacharjee, Anirban Ghosh, Yashini Sivashankar

U Mumba TT: Manav Thakkar, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Aruna Quadri (Nigeria), Akash Pal, Kavyasree Baskar, Maria Xiao (Spain)

–IANS

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Women’s Asia Cup: India's Smriti Mandhana gifts phone to young cricket fan in wheelchair

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Women’s Asia Cup: India's Smriti Mandhana gifts phone to young cricket fan in wheelchair

Women’s Asia Cup: India's Smriti Mandhana gifts phone to young cricket fan in wheelchair

Dambulla, July 20 (IANS) Following India’s seven-wicket victory over Pakistan in their first match of the 2024 Women’s Asia Cup, vice-captain Smriti Mandhana displayed a brilliant gesture towards a young cricket fan in a wheelchair. In the video shared by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) on its ‘X’ handle, Smriti presented a mobile phone to a young fan named Adeesha Herath and clicked a picture with the young girl, who was accompanied by her mother.

“Adeesha Herath’s love for cricket brought her to the stadium, despite all the challenges. The highlight of her day? A surprise encounter with her favorite cricketer, Smriti Mandhana, who handed her a mobile phone as a token of appreciation. 𝐌𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐞 𝐬𝐩𝐢𝐫𝐢𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐠𝐚𝐦e,” captioned the SLC.

Smriti even talked to Adeesha for some time and did a high-five with her at the end of the brief chat. “We came to watch the match unexpectedly as my daughter wanted to go for the match. We met Mandhana madam from the India team and my daughter received a phone from her.”

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“It was unexpected, and my daughter is so lucky to receive this gift from her. I’m so happy and thank you for selecting my daughter as the winner,” said Adeesha’s mother in the heart-warming video.

Coming to Friday’s match, bowlers shone in a top-notch performance, led by Deepti Sharma’s 3-20, to bowl out Pakistan for 108 and set the base for India’s seven-wicket victory over Pakistan.

Smriti and Shafali Verma shared an 85-run opening partnership off just 57 balls to help India chase down the total with 35 balls to spare. India, the defending champions, will next face Nepal in their second Group A game of the 2024 Women’s Asia Cup on Sunday afternoon.

–IANS

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Newcastle sign Serbian teenage defender Miodrag Pivas

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Newcastle sign Serbian teenage defender Miodrag Pivas

Newcastle sign Serbian teenage defender Miodrag Pivas

Newcastle, July 20 (IANS) English football club Newcastle United have signed Serbian defender Miodrag Pivas from FK Jedinstvo Ub on Saturday ahead of the upcoming Premier League season. The 19-year-old, who has represented Serbia at under-17 level, also featured in a defensive midfield position last season as Jedinstvo finished as runners-up in the second tier to clinch promotion to the Serbian Super Liga.

Born in Novi Sad, north-west of Serbian capital Belgrade, Pivas began his career with Austrian regional sides UFC Siezenheim and SV Grodig before returning to his native country with Jedinstvo in 2023.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable to join such a big club like Newcastle United and I cannot wait to get started. I see the project of the club and it looks great which helped convince me to sign for Newcastle,” Pivas said in a statement.

“I see the young players have developed very well here and I would like to do the same – to develop and get into Newcastle’s first team. I’m very excited and I can’t wait to begin,” he added.

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Darren Eales, CEO at Newcastle United, said: “Miodrag is a promising talent with high potential. Our recruitment network is continuing to watch young players like Miodrag around the world with a view to identifying and developing them into first-team players of the future.

“We are pleased to welcome him to Newcastle United and we look forward to supporting his development at this important stage of his career,” he added.

–IANS

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Believed about putting in some very good performances in a short space of time, says Bas de Leede

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Believed about putting in some very good performances in a short space of time, says Bas de Leede

Believed about putting in some very good performances in a short space of time, says Bas de Leede

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) After playing a part in the Netherlands winning the ICC Associate Member Men’s Performance of the Year award in the ICC Development Awards, Netherlands’ all-rounder Bas de Leede said the team had belief in itself about putting in some very good performance in a short period of time.

The Netherlands qualified for the 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup in India by finishing runners-up in the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe. De Leede was one of their standout performers during the Qualifier in Zimbabwe, making 92-ball 123 after picking 5-52, as the Netherlands beat Scotland and overhaul their opponents’ net run-rate to clinch a place in India.

Before that, the Netherlands had beaten two-time ODI World Cup champions West Indies in the game of the tournament, with Logan van Beek hitting a record 30 runs in a Super Over. Later, in the main tournament, the Netherlands showed a good fight in India to beat South Africa and Bangladesh in the league stage.

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“We knew what was needed going into it and the belief in the group was that we were capable of putting in some very good performances in a short space of time. There were some doubts maybe, but mostly belief was the big thing. We were trying to tell ourselves in the group that it was possible and then we were planning how we were going to do it.”

“That West Indies game is No.1. It was 375 to chase and not to get a single off the last ball but win off the Super Over like that, what Logan did that day was very special. After a game like that against the West Indies, it would be nice to be qualified already, but that wasn’t the case.”

“It was the same against Scotland, we knew what was needed. The net run-rate, batting second was handy. To put in a performance again, when it mattered, was special for us as a team. For myself, it was one of the better days on a cricket field,” said de Leede to ICC.

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He went on to explain how important it was for the team to perform against full members in the 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup. “It was amazing to be at the World Cup. As associate nations, I think we represent each other on the big stage. To do that for the other associate nations was pretty cool.”

“We’ve always had a belief that we were good enough so to actually be there was a special moment. It was six or seven weeks of cricket against the best nations in the world and it is something that will probably only happen once in my life so I was very grateful for that opportunity.”

–IANS

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Marquez named head coach of India men's team; Anilkumar appointed AIFF Secretary General

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Marquez named head coach of India men's team; Anilkumar appointed AIFF Secretary General

Marquez named head coach of India men's team; Anilkumar appointed AIFF Secretary General

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) The All India Football Federation has named Manolo Marquez, the Spanish coach of ISL side FC Goa, as the new head coach of the Indian senior men’s team effective immediately, giving him the dual responsibility of managing the club and the national team for the 2024-25 season.

The decision to name Marquez as successor of Igor Stimac, who was not retained following the team’s failure to qualify for the third round of FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers, was taken during the AIFF’s Executive Committee meeting, chaired by President Kalyan Chaubey, which was held at the Football House here on Saturday.

During the 2024-25 season, Marquez will continue his role as the head coach of the first team at FC Goa, handling both responsibilities concurrently before assuming the national coaching role on a full-time basis.

“It’s an honour for me to be the National Football Team coach of India, a country I consider my second home. India and its people are something I feel attached to and I feel a part of since I first came to this beautiful country. I want to do my best to bring success to the millions of fans we have,” Marquez was quoted as saying by the AIFF in a release on Saturday.

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“I am very grateful to FC Goa for allowing us the flexibility to help the national team during the coming season while I am still the club’s head coach. I’m grateful to the AIFF for this opportunity and we hope to do great things for football,” Marquez told the AIFF media team.

Commenting on the development, AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey stated, “We are delighted to welcome Marquez to this important role and are also thankful to FC Goa for their generosity of releasing him for national duty. We look forward to working with Marquez in the years ahead. The AIFF, FC Goa, and Marquez will collaborate closely to ensure there is minimal impact between the two jobs and strive to achieve the best possible results for all involved.”

Aged 55, Manolo Marquez, from Barcelona, has extensive knowledge and experience of Indian football and coaching national team players, especially youngsters. Many national team players in the last few years were called up from his Hyderabad FC team.

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Marquez has been coaching in India since 2020. He has coached two ISL clubs – his first stint was with Hyderabad FC (2020-23) before he switched over to FC Goa (2023-present). He is an ISL Cup winner with Hyderabad FC in 2021-22. Overall, Marquez had an extensive coaching career in Spain – Las Palmas (top division) and Las Palmas B, Espanyol B, Badalona, Prat, Europa (third division).

In other developments, based on the recommendation of the AIFF President Chaubey, the Executive Committee resolved on Saturday to appoint Anilkumar Prabhakaran as the Secretary General of the federation.

The Executive Committee has also accepted the resignation of Anilkumar from the AIFF Executive Committee and all other sub-committees he was a part of. Anilkumar’s appointment shall be subject to the internal protocols and induction procedures as required by the AIFF Constitution and he shall take charge upon the completion of the same.

The meeting was attended by AIFF Vice President N.A. Haris, Treasurer Kipa Ajay, and members Thongam Tababi Devi, Valanka Natasha Alemao, Pinky Bompal Magar, Menla Ethenpa, Vijay Bali, Syed Husnain Ali Naqvi, Neibou Sekhose, Maloji Raje Chhatrapati, Mohan Lal, Syed Imtiaz Husain, Arif Ali, Bhaichung Bhutia, Shabbir Ali, Climax Lawrence, and Acting Secretary General Mr. M. Satyanarayan. Executive Committee members Lalnghinglova Hmar and I.M. Vijayan attended the meeting via video conferencing.

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Ajit Banerjee President, Indian Football Association (West Bengal), Caitano Fernandes, President, Goa Football Association, Mulrajsinh Chudasama, Secretary, Gujarat State Football Association, Anuj Gupta, President, Football Delhi, and Rochak Langer, COO, FSDL were present as special invitees.

–IANS

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Maharaja Trophy KSCA T20: Mayank, Devdutt, Karun among retained players ahead of auction

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Maharaja Trophy KSCA T20: Mayank, Devdutt, Karun among retained players ahead of auction

Maharaja Trophy KSCA T20: Mayank, Devdutt, Karun among retained players ahead of auction

Bengaluru, July 20 (IANS) Senior players Mayank Agarwal, Devdutt Padikkal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Abhinav Manohar, and Vyshak Vijaykumar were among the stars retained by the franchises for the Maharaja Trophy KSCA T20 Season 3 ahead of the auction, scheduled later this month.

The tournament, scheduled for August 15 to September 1 at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, will see defending champions Hubli Tigers, runners-up Mysore Warriors, Gulbarga Mystics, Bengaluru Blasters, Mangaluru Dragons, and Shivamogga Lions vying for the title.

Each franchise exercised their right to retain four players from their previous season’s squad, ahead of the player auction which is scheduled for July 25.

Hubli Tigers retained the services of skipper Manish Pandey, who returns from a championship season with the Kolkata Knight Riders, wicketkeeper Shrijith KL and the young all-rounder, Manvanth Kumar.

Ace medium pacer, Vidwath Kaverappa will also return to lead the Hubli Tigers’ bowling attack. Notably, Manish Pandey and Shrijith KL were amongst the top five run-scorers in the previous season while Manvanth Kumar was the leading wicket-taker.

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Last year’s runners-up, Mysore Warriors prioritised a strong top order with the retention of last season’s top scorer and captain Karun Nair, the explosive CA Karthik, and the prodigious S.U Karthik. The hard-hitting all-rounder Manoj Bhandage will also feature for the Mysore Warriors yet again.

While the southpaw Devdutt Paddikal was forced to miss Gulbarga Mystics’ previous campaign due to an injury, he returns to strengthen the Mystics batting unit this season. The Royal Challengers Bengaluru pacer Vyshak Vijaykumar has also been retained along with batters Smaran Ravi and Aneesh KV.

The Shivamogga Lions retained Abhinav Manohar who was also the most expensive player in last year‘s auction with a price tag of 15 lakh. Furthermore, Nihal Ullal and Shivraj also return to provide the Lions with a formidable batting lineup. The experienced medium pacer Vasuki Koushik has also been retained by the Shivamogga Lions.

The Mangaluru Dragons will see the return of top-order batter, Nikin Jose, who missed out on a majority of the previous season due to NCA commitments. Rohan Patil, Siddharth KV and Paras Gurbax Arya complete their list of retentions.

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While the Bengaluru Blasters had a lukewarm season last year, their retentions include the experienced opener, Mayank Agarwal, Suraj Ahuja, all-rounder Shubhang Hegde and Mohsin Khan.

B.K. Sampath Kumar, Commissioner of the Maharaja Trophy and vice-president of KSCA, expressed his enthusiasm for the upcoming season, he said, “We are eagerly anticipating another exciting season of the Maharaja Trophy. Player retention is a significant part of our franchise model, introduced last year. This continuity allows each team to build a strong culture and identity while retaining some of their key players.”

The tournament will be broadcast on Star Sports 2, StarSports Kannada and streamed on FanCode.

–IANS

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