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Vlahovic & Mitrovic headline 26-member Serbian squad for Euro 2024

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New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) Serbia have announced a 26-member squad that will represent the country at their first European Championship since 2000 when Serbia and Montenegro competed as FR Yugoslavia.

Serbia narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2020 Euros after losing out against Scotland on penalties.

The squad possesses some serious firepower in the frontline as they have former Fulham player Aleksandar Mitrovic, former Real Madrid striker Luka Jovic and Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic.

Dorde Petrovic also made the squad in what has been a breakout season for him at Chelsea.

Sasa Lukic, Sergej Milenkovic-Savic & Dusan Tadic have been trusted to handle the midfield of the team.

Serbia squad:

Goalkeepers: Vanja Milinkovic Savic (Torino), Dorde Petrovic (Chelsea) and Predrag Rajkovic (Mallorca)

Defenders: Strahinja Pavlovic (RB Salzburg), Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina), Srdan Babic (Spartak Moscow), Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen), Uros Spajic (Red Star Belgrade) and Nemanja Stojic (TSC Backa Topola)

Midfielders: Sasa Lukic (Fulham), Nemanja Gudelj (Seviila)Nemanja Maksimovic (Getafe), Ivan Ilic (Torino), Srdan Mijailovic (Red Star Belgrade), Sergej Milenkovic-Savic (Al-Hilal), Dusan Tadic (Fenerbahce), Lazar Samardzic (Udinese), Vejko Birmancevic (Sparta Prague), Filip Kostic (Juventus), Andrija Zivkovic (PAOK), Filip Mladenovic (Panathinaikos) and Mijat Gacinovic (AEK Athens)

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Forwards: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Al-Hilal), Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus), Luka Jovic (AC Milan) and Petar Ratkov (RB Salzburg)

–IANS

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T20 World Cup:There's a reason why I've played for so long, and be in the team, says Bairstow

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North Sound (Antigua), June 16 (IANS) After England secured a 41-run win over Namibia in a truncated affair and seeing Australia beat Scotland to enter the Super Eight stage, wicketkeeper-batter Jonny Bairstow hit back at the critics for questioning his place in the side, saying there’s a reason behind him playing international cricket for a long time.

Under pressure due to scoring just 64 runs in his last four T20Is, Bairstow smashed 31 off 18 balls while sharing a 56-run stand with Harry Brook for the third wicket as England made 122/5 in their ten overs, which was enough for the defending champions to get an important win over Namibia.

“Look, people are allowed to have opinions, and yeah, look, it’s part and parcel of it. It’s not the first time that people have had a go at me, is it? So yeah, you take it on the chin, and you crack on.

“But look, at the end of the day, there’s a reason why I’ve played for so long, and there’s a reason why I’m in the team. So maybe sometimes the opinions and the views that come through certain people’s eyes are incorrect and maybe need to look at themselves,” said Bairstow in the post-match press conference.

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Bairstow is still one of the few players who plays all three formats of international cricket and he’s admitted it’s a tough juggling act for him this year, but is still proud of himself to maintain that balance.

“I’d like to be keeping wicket and batting in the Tests. That’s exactly what I’ve wanted to do. I haven’t spent much time thinking about it. The games have been coming thick and fast. I think I’ve had about five nights at home since January 11th, when we left.

“So, it’s something that you just keep playing, you keep trying to learn, you keep enjoying the experiences and the challenges that get put in front of you, and I think that that’s the important bit.

“When you are on tour and when you’re fortunate enough to play in the different formats and the different countries that you have around the world, the willingness and the enjoyment and the challenges you’ve got to accept and sometimes overcome them and look at times it does get difficult.

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“At times, it is hard to adapt from format to format, and it does take a little bit of change, but look, it’s something that I’ve done for all my career, and I wouldn’t change anything of it to be quite honest with you because to be fortunate enough to play in all three formats for England it’s something that I’m very, very proud of,” he elaborated.

Asked if he’s okay with being moved up and down the batting order as per demands of the situation, Bairstow remarked, “Look I’m not sure that’s going to be a permanent thing I don’t know what’s going on with that. Here, that was the decision that was made.

“You go out there and you perform in the positions that you’re asked to do so. That partnership in the middle there, like I said, after losing two early on was an imperative partnership and something that, look, if Harry and I can bat for a period of time through the middle, there’s going to be some decent scores.”

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–IANS

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UTT 2024: Sharath, Manika among top Indian stars to be retained by franchises

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) The experienced duo of Achanta Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra were among the five Indian paddlers who were retained by their respective franchises ahead of the upcoming Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) 2024, which will be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai from August 22 to September 7.

Last season’s runners-up Chennai Lions retained the services of legend Sharath Kamal, while Bengaluru Smashers opted to continue with the highest-ranked Indian, Batra, as the franchises preferred to stick with their top paddlers for the upcoming season.

It will be an eight-team league for the first time, providing a platform for young Indian paddlers to exhibit their talent alongside the world’s elite players. This significant expansion aims to elevate the standard of competition and foster the growth of emerging talent within the sport.

Defending champions Goa Challengers have retained Harmeet Desai, who played a pivotal role in their success last season, while Sathiyan Gnanasekaran will continue with Dabang Delhi TTC. U Mumba TT have also extended their association with talented youngster Manav Thakkar for yet another season.

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“Over the years, the franchises have not only looked to win titles but also focused on building the core of their team around their star player who can lead the team. The same thought process is visible in the player retention for UTT 2024 as we see the five franchises sticking to their star performers for yet another season,” UTT promoters Niraj Bajaj and Vita Dani said in a joint statement.

According to the rules of the league, the six existing franchises were allowed to retain one Indian player. Puneri Paltan Table Tennis, who have decided not to retain any player, and new entrants Jaipur Patriots and Ahmedabad SG Pipers will select a player of their choice in the first round of the player draft. The first round will have only three picks.

The countdown for the new season began with all eight franchises picking up one foreigner and one Indian coach from the Coach Draft and will now look to build a six-player squad that will include four Indians and two foreigners (one male and one female).

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The new season will also see a change in the tournament format due to the inclusion of two more teams. The eight teams will now be divided into two groups of four teams each. Each franchise will play five ties during the league stage, facing the other three teams within their respective group and two randomly selected teams from the other group once.

The top two teams from each group will then qualify for the semi-finals.

Retained Players:

Chennai Lions: Sharath Kamal

Dabang Delhi TTC: Sathiyan Gnanasekaran

Goa Challengers: Harmeet Desai

PBG Bengaluru Smashers: Manika Batra

U Mumbai TT: Manav Thakkar

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Nepal eye good show against Bangladesh, says head coach Desai

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Kingstown, June 16 (IANS) Ahead of Nepal’s final match of the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup, head coach Monty Desai said his side is eager to put up a show against Bangladesh at the Arnos Vale Stadium.

Nepal were knocked out of the race to Super Eights after suffering a heartbreaking one-run defeat to South Africa and now face Bangladesh, who are in contention to grab the second and last Super Eight spot from Group D alongside the Netherlands, who are facing Sri Lanka.

“We are building our story, so I am not thinking about spoiling anyone else’s party. The message in the dressing room was that we still want to live in a world of imagination, where we want to believe that we crossed the line (on Friday).

“We want to think that we are on three points, looking forward to Bangladesh and playing to qualify for Super Eight. If you can bring that mentality and fight till the end, cross the line, at least we will go back with a proud moment of winning, and then probably think about the ifs and buts of other games. But yes, we want to put up a show,” said Desai in the pre-match press conference.

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Desai also admitted that he’s still soaking in the emotions of Nepal running South Africa real close in that nail-biting Group D game and believes their return to T20 World Cup fold after a decade will help in progression of cricket in the country.

“It’s very interesting, as when you don’t cross the line, it’s always seen as a team which has not been successful. But with the Associate team like Nepal who has never played against South Africa, if I had to only speak like a fan from outside, I know that they are capable more than that.

“But just as a fan who loves the game, I would say Nepal definitely have left their footprints with that game and to let the Test nations and world cricket know that they belong here. I have a strong belief in this class of the players who have come together.

“I know the numbers don’t match the professional numbers of battles of Test teams or well-established teams. But I strongly believe that when you talk about something which never changed previously, this will go down as something will change forever for Nepal,” he elaborated.

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A heartwarming sight in the T20 World Cup has been the outpouring of Nepal fans and supporting the side in huge numbers at Dallas, Lauderhill and Kingstown. Desai appreciated the massive support for the team from the passionate fans, but added that Nepal’s future progression is down to them playing against big teams and winning big moments consistently.

“I think the biggest success story of Nepal cricket is about these innocent fans. I say innocent because I am only looking at it through my lens. I know when I walk across the Tribhuvan University ground (in Kirtipur), I see so many of those Nepali fans on the banks, they might be having daily jobs, daily wages to live their life and they leave that and come to watch the game and support these young dreams.”

“They have stood with the umbrellas in the rain in the past. When we qualified (for the T20 World Cup), they were standing on the roof, they were climbing the trees. There are so many layers to the definition of ‘fans’ as the 12th man for Nepal cricket. I am sure it will be very hard right now for them to soak in their emotions.

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“Cricket is cruel sometimes. Again, I say South Africa had already qualified, we just needed to cross the line and stay alive in this tournament. I urge the fans back home to keep supporting these young dreams with the limited resources, not using an excuse. I think we have taken strides.

“The more we get exposure against these Test nations, again another opportunity tomorrow, we’ll go to that (game) against Bangladesh, and I think we’ll be up for it. I know all it requires now in those one-ball battles is courage and that is something which we are instilling and moulding in these young dreams,” he concluded.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: 'We've let entire nation down', says Matthews after SL's exit

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Gros Islet (St Lucia), June 16 (IANS) Sri Lanka veteran all-rounder Angelo Matthews said their early exit from the T20 World Cup has let down the entire nation.

Sri Lanka suffered two straight defeats against South Africa and Bangladesh in Group D before a washout against Nepal in Florida. The Island nation will take on the Netherlands in their final league-stage match on Monday.

Matthews said the side will play for pride in their last match at the showpiece event.

“I think first of all we’ve let the entire nation down and we are really sorry because we’ve let ourselves down. We never expected this. I mean, we came across a lot of challenges but those are not something to sort of worry about, but it’s unfortunate that we didn’t make the second round,” Mathews said in the pre-match press conference.

“We have just one more game in the tournament, and we’ll play for our pride. And we haven’t done justice to ourselves, especially the way we played in the first two games. So, it’s very unfortunate, we are heartbroken and we are hurting so much within ourselves,” he added.

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The 37-year-old said their dismal performance in the showpiece event didn’t do justice to their capabilities after defeating Afghanistan and Bangladesh in the lead up to the tournament.

“That’s something that we regret because the way we played Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh in Bangladesh, I thought we didn’t do justice for our capabilities in this tournament.

“I mean, as you say, when you come into a World Cup, you can’t take any team lightly but unfortunately the way we played against those teams just before the World Cup and then once we came back here and the way we played… obviously the wickets were quite different but we didn’t do justice to ourselves,” he said.

Matthews also mentioned the fact that Sri Lanka’s matches were scheduled at four different venues and they had to travel the most in this World Cup but he asserted it can’t be an excuse for the below-par outing.

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“We are very frustrated as I mentioned earlier a few times. I think in my career, we have never travelled this much for a World Cup. It’s not an excuse, but it is about the reality. I think that only Sri Lanka and the Dutch team played the four matches of this tournament in four different locations.

“As I said before it’s not an excuse, but in my career, this is the most travelled World Cup in history. But as I said before, we were not able to achieve our hope as a team or as a country. I’m very sorry about it,” he said.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Hazlewood's eliminating England remark 'blown out of proportion by…', says Starc

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Gros Islet, June 16 (IANS) After Australia ended their Group B matches in the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup with a five-wicket win over Scotland, fast-bowling spearhead Mitchell Starc insisted that Josh Hazlewood saying about eliminating England was in their best interest was a throwaway line which the media blew out of proportion.

“I think a throwaway line has been blown right out of proportion by you lot. You don’t stuff around with mother cricket and trying to worry about other results. We’re here to win games. It’s international cricket.

“England now are on the other side of the draw, so it really doesn’t make that much difference for the next three games. So yeah, I think that was blown right out of proportion by you guys,” said Starc in the post-match press conference.

He went to say that he was not a huge fan of teams starting from the scratch in Super Eights. “I think there’s a big question to be asked about the pre-seeding, I’m not sure I’m a fan of that.”

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At the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium, Marcus Stoinis shined with a match-winning 29-ball 59, followed by Tim David making 24 off 14 balls as Australia chased down 181 in 19.4 overs, despite the required creeping up to 14 at one point.

“We’ve got phenomenal power in our middle, well right through our order really. But when you’ve got Stoin and TD and even (Matthew) Wade in the middle there, they haven’t had too many things to do the first few games. So, to have a good hit tonight or to get us home with the run rate going up a little bit and maybe being a comparatively a slowish start, it was good to get some time into those guys.

“But Stoin obviously did it for us. He got us going in the first game against Oman, against England, his ball striking in his second half of the innings was phenomenal. So, he’s in great touch which is good for us heading into the pointy end. But I don’t think, with as good as the wicket was, the rate probably didn’t get out of hand with the power that we’ve gotten as yet,” stated Starc.

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What would have concerned Australia is the six catches they shelled and allowed Scotland to post 180/5 in their 20 overs. “We certainly were off the mark in the field with the dropped catches and probably some other areas that were a little bit sloppy as well.

“So good to get that stuff out of the way now and now we’re into the pointy end. It didn’t feel different. It’s still a World Cup game and we’re still playing for Australia so we’re still trying to take wickets and win games,” added Starc.

In the clash against Scotland, Australia rested Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, which paved the way for left-arm spin all-rounder Ashton Agar to bowl four overs for the first time in this T20 World Cup. Starc signed off by saying the move to get in some game time for Agar was with Australia expecting spin to play a major role in the competition.

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“We were in a position where we had plenty of options on the table. We had a chance to rest the two big boys (Hazlewood and Cummins) and get some gametime into Ash. We have another game here (against India) in the Super Eight, so (it was about) getting accustomed to or having a look at conditions here as well.

“Having some batting time into our middle order and some of our spinners obviously getting some time in different situations in the bowling innings, it was a good hit out. That was all we wanted and then we push onto the Super Eights,” he conlcuded.

–IANS

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