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WPL: Gujarat Giants looking to put best foot forward in season 2

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Bengaluru, Feb 24 (IANS) The second season of WPL has commenced, and one of the most loved teams, the Adani Sportsline-owned Gujarat Giants, is all set to open its campaign against defending champion Mumbai Indians on Sunday

Captained by the Australian run-machine Beth Mooney, the Gujarat Giants team is keen to make a splash this year.

Ahead of the first game, head coach Michael Klinger, mentor and advisor Mithali Raj, captain Mooney and vice-captain Sneh Rana spoke at length about their preparation for the season.

“There’s a really excellent sort of vibe in the group as it has been together for a little while now. We worked through some things last week, and they have come to fruition. So, there’s a keen sense of anticipation for the first game. And I know the 11 that take the field tomorrow night will take full advantage of that and put their best foot forward,” said Beth Mooney.

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Echoing the thoughts of her skipper, Indian all-rounder Sneh Rana, who led Gujarat Giants last year after Mooney picked up an injury, said the team is in a good place. “We have had a good experience so far, and the Gujarat Giants has ensured players have all support they need. The mood in the team is very positive. We have gelled quite well and are hoping for a good start to the tournament.”

In its second season, WPL decided to move away from Mumbai to Bengaluru and New Delhi. Reacting to the move, she said, “It is good that WPL is happening in different cities as we have fans across the country.”

Mentor Mithali Raj said, “If WPL moves to every city, it gives the franchise a chance to develop a new audience, who can come and watch it play. This will only improve the profile of the tournament and the franchises.”

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The former Indian captain touched upon her role, and said she was enjoying working with Gujarat Giants in a big platform like WPL. She said, “I have been enjoying this role as mentor, working with young players, sharing my knowledge, helping them stay in a good space and perform their roles to the best of their ability.”

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Keshav Maharaj credits 'small moments' behind unbeaten campaign

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Gros Islet (St Lucia), June 22 (IANS) South Africa spinner Keshav Maharaj feels that the team has found ways to win “small moments” in the game that has helped them to stay unbeaten in the T20 World Cup so far. South Africa are cruising in the showpiece tournament with a six-match winning streak. Proteas have kept calm during the crunch situations and prevailed over their opponents in four close matches including the one-run win over Nepal in the group stage.

“If you look at previous World Cups, the small moments, we haven’t really won. It’s good to see that all the games have come really close and we’ve found a way, so it’s building the character within the team. And it prepares us for certain opportunities that we could get and cross over the line in those small moments, [these] are things that we’ve never done before. So, it’s good to see us getting into that,” Maharaj said.

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The left-arm spinner went on to say that South Africa have made every effort to get past the “hurt” caused by the 2023 ODI World Cup semi-final exit in India.

“This team believes that we can be really great as a unit. Obviously, with the last World Cup, bowing out in the semi-finals, it’s both the character and there’s a lot of hurt. So, we just take it one game at a time and focus on trying to get the results to go our way and not looking at the negatives, just trying to highlight the positives as much as possible,” Maharaj said.

South Africa’s next match against West Indies in Antigua on Sunday will feature a showdown between the teams’ left-arm spinners. South Africa boasts Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi while West Indies relies on Akeal Hosein and Gudakesh Motie, who have been their standout bowlers in the tournament with Hosein claiming nine wickets and Motie eight in six matches.

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Maharaj acknowledged the spin battle, stating, “It’s always a battle of the spinners. I’m just going about my business. They’ve bowled exceptionally well in the tournament. I’ve watched quite a few spells of them, so obviously they’re quite a dominant force as well. They [West Indies] have got a very strong batting line-up, but [I will] just try to stick true to my processes and my principles.”

“It’s more a case of focusing on each and every game, not getting too ahead of ourselves. We’ve been very focused on our processes and trying to win each and every game and letting the rest take care of itself,” he added.

–IANS

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Football: Bayern Munich’s rehab and conditioning coach Thomas Wilhelmi passes away at 57

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Munich, June 22 (IANS) FC Bayern Munich have announced the death of Thomas Wilhelmi, the German club’s rehab and conditioning coach who has died at the age of 57 following a long illness. Wilhelmi worked for Bayern since 2007 and played a big part in the numerous successes of the last 17 years.

“Our entire club, and not least the coaching staff and the team with whom Thomas Wilhelmi worked so intensively for so long, are in deep mourning. Thomas Wilhelmi loved and lived FC Bayern and his profession: he always had his finger on the pulse of the players and was always there for them, especially during periods of injury, when top athletes need the most encouragement,” said Jan-Christian Dreesen, CEO of FC Bayern.

“For over 17 years, he was part of the team behind the team and could always be relied on. He made an invaluable contribution to the many titles over this long period. We will never forget him, and his human and professional qualities. Thomas Wilhelmi will always be a part of the FC Bayern family. Our thoughts are with his wife and two daughters,” he said.

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Wilhelmi joined the club in 2007 from Bayer Leverkusen and worked under various coaches, including Jupp Heynckes, Louis van Gaal, Pep Guardiola, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Jürgen Klinsmann, Carlo Ancelotti, Hansi Flick, Niko Kovac, Julian Nagelsmann and Thomas Tuchel.

For players such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben, Manuel Neuer, Serge Gnabry, and Alphonso Davies, he was an important support, particularly during their rehab periods. During his time, FC Bayern won 13 Bundesliga titles, the Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup twice, seven DFB Cups, the UEFA Super Cup twice, and the German Supercup nine times.

–IANS

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Hockey Pro League: Flawless Dutch women secure second straight title with three matches to spare

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Utrecht (Netherlands), June 22 (IANS) Returning to action for the first time since February, the Netherlands Women defeated Germany 4-0 for a dominant win – their 13th from 13 matches this season – and secured their fourth title overall with three matches to spare in FIH Hockey Pro League here on Saturday. The odds were stacked against their opposition, Germany, who had not beaten the Dutch in regulation time since the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, as the home team, which was on the cusp of wrapping up a second straight title, came out strong and never allowed them many chances.

Just a month before the Paris Olympic Games, the World and FIH Pro League winners Netherlands made a triumphant return to international duty with a comfortable win. The first half was evenly contested and it was essentially two sharp plays from the Dutch that made all the difference.

The prolific Yibbi Jansen fired them ahead from a quickly taken free hit in the 8th minute. It was then Luna Fokke who laid off to Jansen before covering 20m to complete a sensational deflection and double the home side’s lead. The third quarter was hotly contested with both teams squandering a single penalty corner opportunity each.

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The final period served up plenty of action, the Dutch stealing the ball from the pushback to win a penalty corner which Jansen rocketed home to extend her lead at the top of the women’s goal-scoring list with 1an impressive 17 goals so far this season.

Frederique Matla then slotted in a drag flick two minutes later for her side to put one hand on the trophy. And while the Germans had a strong spell in the middle of the quarter, it was not enough to make any dent in the significant deficit, with the Dutch reasserting control to close out the match and with that, the title.

–IANS

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WTA Tour: Gauff, Kalinskaya advance in Berlin after Jabeur, Sabalenka retire

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Berlin, June 22 (IANS) World No.2 Coco Gauff advanced to her second semifinal in Berlin Ladies Open after No.10 Ons Jabeur retired with illness. Gauff edged Jabeur in a tightly contested a 68-minute set, winning 7-6(9). After dropping the opening set, Jabeur was assessed by the trainer and doctor and retired.

It was a disappointing end for Jabeur, who gamely saved a total of 10 set points to take Gauff to the brink in the first set. The American saved two set points in the tiebreak but ultimately prevailed to advance to her third career grass-court semifinal.

“I was happy with how I was able to play,” Gauff was quoted as saying by WTA Tour in a report on its website. “Of course, I send my best wishes to Ons. It’s not the way you want to finish a match, especially with someone who is so nice on and off the court.”

Gauff will face fifth seed Jessica Pegula in the semifinals. Pegula closed out her rain-interrupted quarterfinal against Katerina Siniakova to win 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3 and advance to her first grass semifinal of her career.

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Jabeur’s was the second retirement of the day in Berlin. No.24 Anna Kalinskaya advanced to her first grass-court semifinal after No.3 Aryna Sabalenka retired due to a shoulder injury. Earlier in the week, reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova (right hip injury) and No.4 Elena Rybakina (abdominal pain) also retired mid-match.

Kalinskaya led 5-1 in the first set before the reigning Australian Open champion decided not to continue. Sabalenka called a medical timeout to have her shoulder and neck area assessed and treated at 4-1, and tried to play through the injury. But after another game, the No.2 seed made the decision to retire. It is the first injury retirement of Sabalenka’s WTA Tour career.

–IANS

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Formula One: Lando Norris pips Verstappen to take pole in thrilling Spanish GP; Hamilton to start third on grid

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Barcelona, June 22 (IANS) McLaren’s Lando Norris delivered a spectacular final lap to snatch pole position from Max Verstappen in the thrilling qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix here on Saturday. Norris claimed his second Formula 1 pole of the career and first of the season. Initially, Verstappen seemed certain to start Sunday’s race from the front of the grid. However, Norris narrowly stopped the Red Bull driver on the final throw of the top-10 shootout by a mere two-hundredths of a second.

Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate George Russell will line up on the second row after finishing third and fourth, respectively. Charles Leclerc and home favourite Carlos Sainz had to settle for fifth and sixth in what was another tight session around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while Pierre Gasly starred en route to seventh for Alpine.

Sergio Perez was eighth in his Red Bull but will drop three places on the grid with his penalty from Canada, promoting the other Alpine of Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, who had a scruffy Q3 and failed to log a time. Fernando Alonso gave it his all to reach the pole position shootout on home soil but ultimately missed out on Q3 by just a couple of hundredths of a second, having been pushed into the Q2 drop zone by former teammate Ocon.

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Alonso was joined in the drop zone by Kick Sauber drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu in respective P12 and P15 slots, with Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg and the other Aston Martin of Lance Stroll slotting between them. Magnussen could not quite match the pace of teammate Hulkenberg as he fell at the first qualifying hurdle in 16th position, the Dane just missing out on a Q2 spot to Stroll, who appeared to be impeded by Logan Sargeant during the Q1 phase.

A raft of updates this weekend brought the promise of cementing RB’s position at the front of F1’s midfield battle, but their practice struggles carried over to qualifying and left Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo in a disappointing P17 and P18 respectively. Williams also experienced one of their toughest sessions of the season, with Alex Albon and Sargeant unable to prevent the team from propping up the rear – leaving them with a significant challenge to add any more points to their tally on race day.

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–IANS

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