SRH expect Mustafizur to join squad on April 7

IPL 2017

SRH expect Mustafizur to join squad on April 7

JAC Gladson • Last updated on Mon, 03 Apr, 2017, 07:16 AM

Mustafizur is not expected to be available for many games this season. © Getty

Slowly but surely, the Sunrisers Hyderabad are hitting their stride. Their training schedule was thrown off gear by a virus that had laid the first batch of players low, including their bowling mentor Muttiah Muralitharan. But they have recovered from that blow and it’s all systems go for the defending champions what with most of their players joining the team on Sunday (April 2).

However, Mustafizur Rahman, their bowling mainstay last season, will miss the opening match of IPL 10 against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on April 5. The Bangladeshi leftarm seamer, who confounded many batting line-ups to finish fifth in the bowling charts with 17 sticks last season, will join the team on April 7 and is likely to play only a few matches this season.

Coach Tom Moody confirmed the development. “We’re expecting him (Mustafizur) to be here on the 7th. Unless we hear differently from the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), we’ll continue to expect him.

“One of the reasons why we secured both these talents (Ben Laughlin & Chris Jordan) is we knew Mustafizur is going to be available for only small portion of the tournament. We felt it was important to fill that gap and these guys have got excellent skills that enable us to have that option to be able to finish games,” he said.

The SRH coach was also confident that skipper David Warner, who with 848 runs finished No.2 in the batting charts after Virat Kohli (973), would be fresh and raring to go despite the gruelling Test series against India.

“We’ve given him (Warner) an extra couple of days in Sydney to be with his family. We recognise as a franchise that family is important and in also keeping players fresh mentally. He’s sending possible XIs for the games, so he hasn’t switched off. He’s just having a chance to recharge those batteries. Physically he’s absolutely fine. 100% fit and I think the extra couple of days the franchise has allowed him back home with his two young daughters and his wife will pay dividends as the tournament unfolds,” he said.





County Championship: Know your squads – Part I


County Championship: Know your squads – Part I

Rob Johnston • Last updated on Mon, 03 Apr, 2017, 12:20 AM

Essex won Division Two last season © Getty


Last season: 9th in Division Two

It has been all change at Derbyshire over the winter with Kim Barnett, installed as the club’s new Director of Cricket, wasting no time in putting his mark on things. It was clear that something had to be done: Derbyshire finished bottom of the County Championship without a win last season.

There is genuine hope for better this time out, though, much of it due to an influx of players which has given the squad a depth it lacked last year. Ireland’s Gary Wilson, signed from Surrey, and a trio of South Africans, Imran Tahir, Hardus Viljoen and Daryn Smit, the latter two on Kolpak deals, have all arrived and will add much needed experience and quality to the squad.

The signings of Tahir and Viljoen in particular, will give captain Billy Goddleman a cutting edge that Derbyshire lacked last season when they garnered the least bowling bonus points of any county. Throw in young leg-spinner Matt Critchley, who spent the winter in Sydney working with Stuart MacGill, and reliable fast bowler Tony Palladino and the attack has a decent look to it.

Barnett has also introduced a revamped coaching structure which will see Goddleman and the players effectively managing the Championship and 50-over teams without a head coach. The hope is that this will force the players to take more responsibility for the success of the side. For the T20 campaign, John Wright has been hired as a specialist coach.

Despite the improvements to the squad, expectations should be tempered with a dose of realism. Come the end of the season, Derbyshire are unlikely to be in the mix for promotion but they should fare better than last year and pick up a few wins along the way. After a harrowing campaign last season, that should be regarded as success in itself.


Last season: 4th in Division One (enforced relegation by ECB due to financial failings)

The sanctions placed on Durham by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for financial failings were intended to act as a warning to other counties but they are clearly punitive. Not only will Durham be playing in Division Two this season, they will start with a 48-point penalty.

Typically, Durham have faced their situation with stoicism. Ian Botham has been appointed as chairman and has been bullish in his still targeting promotion while Keaton Jennings, Ben Stokes and Mark Wood have all remained with the county when they could have been tempted elsewhere.

Durham could not, however, hang on to everyone. Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick, both of whom scored over 1,000 Championship runs last season, have moved to Surrey, which leaves the batting looking short. Much will be expected of Jennings, although he should be with England for much of the Test match summer, and captain Paul Collingwood.

The additions of Test batsmen South African Stephen Cook and New Zealander Tom Latham as overseas players will also certainly help plug some of the gap and young Jack Burnham will have to step up as well.

Conversely, the bowling looks strong with Wood, Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth all top-class operators and young left-arm seamer James Weighall showing glimpses of potential. Spinner Ryan Pringle will hope to do better than last year’s disappointing showing, particularly as Durham will be without Borthwick’s leg-spin.

Despite the points penalty and departures, Durham certainly have the class and character to challenge for promotion this season. The strength of their bowling attack should be too good for many of the sides in Division Two and this will give them every chance of reclaiming their position in the top flight at the first time of asking.


Last season: 1st in Division Two

After a fine season last year, Essex will be an unknown quantity in their first appearance in the top flight since 2010. A group of young cricketers have to prove themselves capable of performing against better teams, but in Nick Browne, Jamie Porter, Dan Lawrence and Aaron Beard together with Tom Westley, Essex have a strong nucleus of homegrown talent.

They have also recruited well. Varun Chopra and Adam Wheater, two players with top-flight experience, have arrived, as has top-class South African spinner Simon Harmer on a Kolpak deal. Add in New Zealand fast-bowler Neil Wagner as an overseas player for the start of the season and Essex’s squad looks deeper and stronger than for many a year.

Importantly, Alastair Cook will also be available until July and should play nine or ten Championship games in all. The former England Test captain will be relied on, together with the experienced duo of Ravi Bopara and captain Ryan ten Doeschate, to help the younger batsmen adjust to the greater intensity and quality of Division One’s attacks.While the batting is clearly Essex’s strength, the bowling attack looks perhaps short of another fast bowler. Porter, 23, who has 121 first-class wickets at 27.73, and Matt Dixon will lead the attack with Wagner and Beard and Paul Walter will also have opportunities. Harmer’s spin will be important on the better pitches of Division One but whether Essex can take 20 wickets regularly remains to be seen.

The first target of coach Chris Silverwood will be to avoid relegation but if they have a good start and Cook finds form, they may spring a surprise towards the top half of the division. For the likes of Westley and Browne, a stellar season could also see them pushing for England spots. The future at Chelmsford looks particularly bright.


Last season: 8th in Division Two

On paper, last season was a pretty dismal one for Glamorgan. They finished second-bottom in Division Two and won just three games all year. Worse than that, they lost half of their Championship games.

Yet there were signs that the county may be about to have a decent period. A group of excellent young batsmen in Aneurin Donald, David Lloyd and Will Bragg announced themselves with some standout innings even if the consistency required at first-class level was somewhat lacking. These three have the ability to be the heart of Glamorgan’s batting for a decade.

In the bowling department, there was perhaps less to shout about even though Tim van der Gugten and Michael Hogan shared 105 Championship wickets between them. Spinner Andrew Salter has not kicked on and Graham Wagg and Craig Meschede failed to deliver in any consistent way and will need to do better. Young seamer Lukas Carey should get more opportunities this term after impressing in limited opportunities so far.

Hopes for a better 2017 will depend largely on the inexperienced batting line-up finding more consistency, which will need captain Jacques Rudolph, who averaged under 25 last season, in form, and the back-up bowlers giving Hogan and van der Gugten more support. There is plenty of talent in the squad but they need to deliver on a more regular basis.

Eight losses in 16 games last year suggests a lack of fight when the going got tough but it was largely due to a lack of experience amongst a young squad, one further depleted this season by the retirement of Dean Cosker after 20 years. They will be better for it and although a mid-table finish, and no more, is likely this term, Glamorgan are moving in the right direction.


Last season:6th in Division Two

Gloucestershire started their outdoor season earlier than any other county, playing Oxford University on 16th March, and coach Richard Dawson hopes this will give them the ability to start well in the first four games, matches he has targeted as setting the tone for their first-class campaign. There has been no overhaul of the squad despite a middling Championship season last year with only four wins from their 16 games. Experienced wicket-keeper batsman Phil Mustard has joined from Durham and Australian Cameron Bancroft will replace fellow Western Australian Michael Klinger who will only play limited-overs cricket for Gloucestershire this season.

Dawson wants his current group to step up more consistently than last summer, something that will be even more important without Klinger, who averaged over 70 last season, and Hamish Marshall who has retired. Much will be expected of Chris Dent, who scored three Championship hundreds last year, and Graeme van Buuren to replace those runs.

The bowling attack looks marginally the stronger suit with fast bowlers Craig Miles, Liam Norwell and David Payne all proven performers and young Josh Shaw, 21, having plenty of promise too. If Gloucestershire can score enough runs, that attack should have enough about it to take 20 wickets although they do lack a spinner of note for when the pitches firm up in mid-summer.

Gloucestershire may have to settle for a mid-table finish once again in the Championship. Their squad looks more suited to one-day cricket and lacking in four-day class which shouldn’t trouble the better sides. They do have enough about them though to pick up a few wins along the way.


Last season: 8th in Division One (retained top flight status due to Durham’s relegation)

Whatever the wrongs or rights of Durham’s relegation, Hampshire, the beneficiaries, are keen to focus on putting right a season they felt should never have seen them relegated anyway. They lost just four games in 2016 but drew ten which ultimately saw them finish just below Lancashire and, until Durham’s demotion, headed towards Division Two.

This year, the Hampshire squad has a stronger look to it than last season which has given them hope of being involved at the top end this time out. Michael Carberry has returned after a battle with cancer and Reece Topley is also back fit after missing most of the year with injury. James Vince, away with England for much of last summer, will also likely be around far more.

Added to those three has been some canny recruitment. Two high-class South Africans, Kyle Abbot and Rilee Rossouw, have arrived on Kolpak deals and George Bailey will fulfil the overseas duties and captain the team in Championship cricket. Highly thought of young all-rounder Asher Hart has also arrived from Durham.

Throughout the squad there is strength and experience. Liam Dawson, fresh from an impressive Test debut, and Mason Crane, recently selected for New South Wales after a stellar season in grade cricket, are two good spinners and fast bowler Brad Wheal and batsman Tom Alsop, who spent his winter with the England Lions, are two highly promising cricketers. Jimmy Adams and Will Smith lend further experience to the batting line-up.

Whether Hampshire have enough staying power to challenge the best teams over the course of a season is the biggest question mark this year. Too often last season, they lost big moments in games which was one reason why they won just two matches all season. With the extra class of Topley and Abbot in the bowling attack and more batting depth too, Hampshire could well be the surprise package this season.


Last season: 2nd in Division Two

In any other season, Kent would have achieved their goal of promotion to Division One of the Championship last year. With the restructuring of the top division to include just eight teams only one side was promoted which left Kent rueing their misfortune at finishing second behind Essex.

Sam Northeast’s team look well placed to be there or thereabouts this time round and should benefit from some limited but shrewd recruitment. Young batsman Joe Weatherley, on loan from Hampshire, and all-rounder Will Gidman, signed from Nottinghamshire, have arrived to complement a talented squad.

Sam Billings is one of England’s brightest prospects and will add much to the squad once finished at the IPL and opening batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond starred for the England Lions in their recent one-day series with Sri Lanka. Fast bowler Matt Coles is perhaps the best quick bowler in the second division and experienced duo Darren Stevens and James Tredwell still have plenty to offer.

It’s also a pivotal season for Northeast himself, described by new coach Matt Walker this week as the best captain in county cricket. Fresh from a hundred during the recent North-South series in the UAE, Northeast is starting to get the recognition with the national selectors that he deserves. Leading Kent to promotion will do his cause no harm.

If there is one area where Kent will look to do better than last season, it is converting handy positions into wins. Eight draws last year was perhaps two too many and much will depend this campaign on whether Coles, Gidman and Tredwell are able to bowl sides out regularly. The bowling attack does look short of another high-class fast bowler.

With Durham and Nottinghamshire both looking strong after relegation from the top flight, Kent will not have it all their own way this season. They do, however, have an experienced and deep squad and the shrewd Northeast at the helm which should see them challenging for promotion at the end of the season.


Last season: 7th in Division One

Lancashire approach this season with a good mix of young potential and experienced campaigners within their squad. Last summer’s seventh placed finish, narrowly avoiding relegation, was not what a club of Lancashire’s size expects but nevertheless was a good result for a squad dominated by young, inexperienced players.

One of those, Haseeb Hameed, made his Test debut for England and another, Liam Livingstone, may not be far away either after a fine winter with the Lions. Rob Jones, Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson were others who shone at various stages and all of them with be better for the experience of last year.

New coach Glen Chapple has recognised the need for some experience to complement the youthful talent and has recruited well. South African wicket-keeper Dane Villas and West Indian batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul have been signed on Kolpak deals and Villas’ fellow South African Ryan McLaren will be the club’s overseas player.

James Anderson will also lead the attack in early season and should be available for more games than last summer even if the England management will want to keep him fit and fresh for a rigorous programme of Test matches over the next year. Anderson will form a high-class new-ball partnership with Kyle Jarvis.

It is unlikely Lancashire will be challenging at the top of the table but nor is it certain they will be involved in another relegation battle. Without Anderson, the attack looks short of class and depth but if experienced players like Chanderpaul, Villas and McLaren can add some nous and backbone to the abundant skill and talent of Lancashire’s homegrown youngsters, they may have a decent year.


Last season: 7th in Division Two

Leicestershire’s four Championship victories last season were further confirmation of progress in four-day cricket after winless campaigns in 2013 and 2014 but it is too soon to yet expect them to be challenging at the top of the division.

New coach Pierre de Bruyn, who replaced Andrew McDonald after he returned to Australia, will have a large squad of 25 players to pick from this season which means competition for places will be high. Whether there is enough quality, however, particularly in the batting, remains to be seen.

Some decent players have arrived over the winter to add more depth. South African’s Colin Ackerman and Dieter Klein have been recruited on EU passports while all-rounder James Burke has arrived on loan from Surrey and seamer Gavin Griffiths has joined from Lancashire. Australian Mark Cosgrove will captain the side and his compatriot Clint McKay will lead the limited overs teams.

Alongside those recruits are a host of young players who have shown glimpses of promise. Adil Ali, Lewis Hill, Harry Dearden and Tom Wells are a quartet of youthful batsmen and Zak Chappell is an all-rounder with plenty of potential but it feels as if much of the run scoring will have to be done by Ackerman, Cosgrove, Neil Dexter and Paul Horton.

The bowling attack will rely on McKay, Ben Raine and Charlie Shrek who combined to take 135 Championship wickets last year. Behind them, though, is little proven depth, even if the recruitment of Griffiths should help. The lack of a frontline spinner hindered Leicestershire last season on good pitches and will likely do so again. Callum Parkinson, 20, signed from Derbyshire, has promise but also a lot to learn.

De Bruyn has spoken of his desire for Leicestershire players to get more out of themselves this season and professes himself impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment he has seen in pre-season. That only goes so far, of course, and although Leicestershire will be competitive this season, they still have work to do before they can think about anything more than a mid-table finish.

© Cricbuzz




Arsenal passed mental test, says Arsene Wenger

Arsenal headed into the game having beaten just Hull City and Sutton United and Lincoln City. (Source: Reuters) Arsenal headed into the game having beaten just Hull City and Sutton United and Lincoln City. (Source: Reuters)

Arsenal twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, with under-pressure coach Arsene Wenger praising his side’s mental toughness as they avoided another collapse.

Arsenal headed into the game having beaten just Hull City and lower league sides Sutton United and Lincoln City since the end of January, against a backdrop of fan unrest over the side’s form and the unresolved issue of Wenger’s future.

The players’ character has been questioned in recent weeks, notably after one-sided defeats by Bayern Munich, and their nerves were evident early on as Leroy Sane capitalised on Arsenal’s disorganised defensive unit to fire City ahead in the fifth minute.

“We started very nervously,” Wenger acknowledged to Sky Sports. “We had a refusal to lose the game, we were ready for a fight.

“The test was mental. We had to come back after halftime and we got a point after a time that has been so stressful for us,” he added. “It was a strong performance on the mental front.

“Technically we can do better.”

Despite Wenger’s praise, there were familiar signs of petulance and uncertainty from Arsenal’s players, with goalscorer Walcott trudging off unhappily after being substituted, and Mesut Ozil guilty of pulling out of a 50-50 challenge with Willy Caballero when through on goal.

Like Wenger, Danny Welbeck praised his team mates’ character in fighting back, but conceded that there was room for improvement as Arsenal look to salvage a testing campaign.

“We showed character but we have to look at how we conceded goals today,” the forward added. “At this point of the season we know it is not good enough. We want to be further up the league and we have dropped two more points.

“Both teams want possession and have lots of attacking players, it was a good game for the neutrals. We wanted three points.”

Arsenal equalised through Theo Walcott, before Shkodran Mustafi’s second-half header cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s strike, but the point leaves the Londoners in sixth on 51 points, seven behind City who currently occupy the final Champions League qualifying berth.

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Overwatch Announces World Cup 2017 – Esports

Overwatch Announces World Cup 2017

Blizzard introduces a new qualification process for this year’s World Cup.

Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

The Overwatch World Cup returns for 2017 and will culminate in a final showdown at BlizzCon 2017 in November. Eight single-elimination matches will determine which country is the best at Overwatch. However, the road to the World Cup will be a little different this year because Blizzard is introducing a new qualification process.

For 2017, Blizzard will track the Skill Rating of the top 100 players from each country to determine that country’s average SR. At the end of the qualification period, the top 32 countries with the highest average SR will head to the World Cup. This means that Overwatch players can actively help their country secure a spot in the World Cup by bringing their best to Competitive Play.

Once the top 32 teams are confirmed, players from each country will work together to assemble a National Committee of three local experts. The committee will be chosen from a pool of ten nominees with expertise in the field such as analysts and coaches. One selected, the committee will be in charge of suggesting team lineups and roster picks for the competition.

From there, four live qualifiers will take place over the summer in Europe, North America and Asia. The top 32 countries will compete in groups of eight in these qualifiers and the top two finishers will secure a spot at the 2017 World Cup.

Last year, South Korea took 1st place at the 2016 World Cup, with Russia and Sweden taking 2nd and 3rd place respectively. Currently, South Korea leads at the top of the SR charts with China and USA following close behind. Click here to view the top 50 countries.


BCCI decides cricketers’ payments online, no more cheques

New decision will bring an end to cheque payments to all players at senior and junior levels. New decision will bring an end to cheque payments to all players at senior and junior levels.

THE Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) has decided to switch to online financial transactions to make direct payments to its cricketers at all levels. This decision will bring an end to cheque payments to not just Virat Kohli and his team, but also domestic players, including men and women cricketers at senior and junior levels. As per the prevailing procedure, the board sends the players’ fees to the state associations, which then hand over the cheques. But there have been reports of discrepancies at the domestic level. The CoA’s decision to directly transfer the money into the players’ accounts comes after recent reports of state association office-bearers withholding payments to cricketers.

“All players will have to submit their KYC details and money will henceforth be credited straight into their accounts. There have been many instances of misconduct in the past. But we are only aware of the ones that have been reported. What about those which haven’t come under the spotlight? By making the payments online, we can at least be assured that all the players get their due payment and they don’t have to rely on their state associations,” said a source in the BCCI. For instance, Assam Cricket Association (ACA) secretary Bikash Baruah was suspended last year for “alleged dereliction of duty and misconduct with players”. Following a probe conducted by the ACA disciplinary committee, 61 cheques issued by the BCCI to state players were reportedly recovered from Baruah.

Similarly, a team which qualifies for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals gets Rs 5 lakh from the BCCI, which is to be distributed among the players. But according to reports, the players often don’t get the money.

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Raheem Sterling confident Manchester City can secure Champions League spot

Raheem Sterling thinks the clash against Arsenal is massive for Manchester City. (Source: Reuters) Raheem Sterling thinks the clash against Arsenal is massive for Manchester City. (Source: Reuters)

Raheem Sterling says he is “more than confident” that Manchester City can secure one of the top four spots in the Premier League that will guarantee them Champions League football next season.

Yet City’s England international is wary of the potential backlash from a wounded Arsenal in what he describes as a “massive, massive” clash at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

This season’s adventures in Europe for City came to an anti-climactic end with a 3-1 defeat in Monaco last month and a subsequent draw at home to Liverpool left Pep Guardiola’s men still with a real fight on their hands to secure another crack at the biggest club prize in 2017-18.

Currently, City are fourth but a victory at Arsenal would move them back into third and go a long way to helping them nail down a Champions League berth.

“The way we play and with the players we’ve got, I’m more than confident that we can definitely challenge for that (top four) and possibly even more, as well, because we have some great players,” said the England winger.

“At the end of the day we want to be challenging to be the best each year. Chelsea might be ahead right now but we’ve got to keep winning our games. That’s all we’re focused on between now and the end of the season.”

Starting, he hopes, with a victory at Arsenal which would not only put them seven points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United but 10 clear of the Gunners in sixth.

Sterling senses that it could be another season-shaping afternoon, just like the fixture between the two sides in the week before Christmas, which City won 2-1 to put their campaign back on an even keel after a rocky patch.

“It was a massive win. We’d lost to Chelsea and then at Leicester, and the Arsenal game put us back on track. Sunday will also be a massive, massive game,” said Sterling, who scored the winner in December’s fixture.

“It’s been kind of difficult for Arsenal more recently but with the kind of players they have and the manager they have, at any moment they can start winning games again and go on a good run.”

The 22-year-old is encouraged, though, by his special memories of playing against the Londoners ever since he was a youth player at Queens Park Rangers.

“I love playing against Arsenal. It’s always been a thing for me, even when I was younger. Going away to their training ground was always a massive day for me because I like their style of play. Hopefully, it will be another good day.”

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We will have solid bench strength in four years: Pullela Gopichand

Indian shuttlers have been plagued by a series of injuries and Gopichand admitted things got a bit messed up last year due to the Olympic qualification. (Source: PTI) Indian shuttlers have been plagued by a series of injuries and Gopichand admitted things got a bit messed up last year due to the Olympic qualification. (Source: PTI)

Olympic silver-medallist P Sindhu will take Indian badminton “through” for at least the next four years, feels chief national coach Pullela Gopichand, who foresees a strong bench-strength emerging at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Gopichand, who shaped Sindhu and Olympic bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal among others, believes it will take some time for the next big star to emerge.

“Sindhu is just 21 and I think she will take us through for the next few years and by the time she is 25, we will figure something. I don’t want to pick a junior name right now, but I can assure you that four years from now we will have solid bench strength in women’s singles,” Gopichand told PTI.

“It will take a little time, we have prospects like Ruthvika and Rituparna, who also have the potential of doing well. There are others in the ranks. I think it is not easy to produce players back to back.”

Asked about the doubles players, Gopichand said: “I think we can say that Pranaav and Sikki have done well and Chirag and Satwik are also there.”

“There are at least 6-7 players under the age of 20 who have the potential to do well, so overall good signs for Indian badminton,” he added.

Talking about Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who recently won their fifth International challenger title at Vietnam Open, Gopichand said: “…they are just 18 and 19 years old and they are doing well for this age. These matches give them a lot of confidence and they are developing very well.

Indian shuttlers have been plagued by a series of injuries and Gopichand admitted things got a bit messed up last year due to the Olympic qualification.

“One can’t predict injuries but last year we messed it up a little bit in terms of the number of tournaments ahead of the Olympic qualification because a couple of them played more tournaments because of the Rio Games. But this season it would be better,” he said.

“I don’t think injuries are a cause of concern. It is a learning curve. Each of them is learning about themselves. Mulyo Handoyo is also working on the players, he has been with us for two months.”

Asked about the status of Glasgow Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap, who has been going through a long injury lay-off, Gopichand said: “Kashyap is fine and he should play in China Open in two weeks’ time.”

Asked about his life post-Olympics, Gopichand said: “Fortunately or unfortunately, the Olympics have made my life a little tougher in terms of my schedule, so I have not been able to give much time to all projects. I think a lot still needs to be done in every department.”

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Injury-hit Atletico Madrid beat Malaga but Real Sociedad lose ground

Atletico Madrid provisionally moved to third place in the points table. (Source: Reuters) Atletico Madrid provisionally moved to third place in the points table. (Source: Reuters)

A depleted Atletico Madrid side shrugged off the absence of seven players to win 2-0 at struggling Malaga on Saturday as strikes from Koke and Filipe Luis in either half moved them provisionally into third place in La Liga.

Koke, the scorer of the winner in Atletico’s last win at Malaga in 2014, capitalised on some excellent hold-up play from Fernando Torres to nudge Atletico ahead in the 26th minute of a scrappy game.

Filipe Luis then scooped up a loose ball in the 74th minute following another run from Torres to dink his finish over Carlos Kameni for his first goal of the season.

Malaga’s Rosaleda stadium holds special memories for Atletico manager Diego Simeone as it was the scene of his first game in charge of the club back in January 2012, although his side had won only one of their five previous matches there.

They looked to be in for another difficult game after Nico Gaitan and Kevin Gameiro sustained injuries in midweek to join the suspended Yannick Carrasco as well as Augusto Fernandez, Tiago, Sime Vrsaljko and Miguel Angel Moya on the sidelines, meaning Simeone had to call on two reserve players to complete his 18-man squad.

Malaga, however, have had a rotten season, changing their manager twice, and had won just one of their previous 15 league games heading into the fixture, and Michel’s side offered little resistance.

“What pleased me the most was the bravery and defiance we showed against the difficulties we faced,” Atletico coach Simeone told reporters.

“We came here with two youth players and the team played just as well as we always do, and that says a lot about us and the hard work we always put in.”

Atletico are provisionally third in the standings on 58 points after climbing above Sevilla, who host Sporting Gijon on Sunday. Leaders Real Madrid, who have 65 points, entertain Alaves on Sunday, while champions Barcelona, two points behind, visit Granada.

Also on Saturday, Real Sociedad’s hopes of finishing fourth faded further after they drew 1-1 at home to Leganes, extending their winless run to three games.

Leganes went ahead in the 29th minute on a rain-swept afternoon in San Sebastian when Alexander Szymanowski pounced on a moment of indecision from goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli to latch on to a through ball and lob his Argentine compatriot.

Juanmi Jimenez levelled for Real Sociedad eight minutes into the second half, smashing in a cutback from youngster Alvaro Odriozola.

The Basques tried to build on their momentum, but they were unable to convert the few chances they managed to create.

Eusebio Sacristan’s side are fifth in the standings on 49 points, eight behind fourth-placed Sevilla, who have a game in hand, and nine adrift of third-placed Atletico.

Athletic Bilbao, in seventh, beat basement club Osasuna 2-1 to move to within one point of sixth place Villarreal after Fran Escriba’s side were beaten 3-2 at home to Eibar, who are eighth, three points behind Athletic.

Espanyol are ninth in the standings, one point back from Eibar, after leaving it late to beat Real Betis 2-1 on Friday, Javi Fuego hitting the equaliser in the 88th minute and then veteran Jose Antonio Reyes providing the winner in the 90th.

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Late bloomers Mumbai Indians well placed for another title run

IPL 2017

Late bloomers Mumbai Indians well placed for another title run

Gokul Gopal • Last updated on Fri, 31 Mar, 2017, 09:28 PM

Mumbai Indians’ success post 2010 has been built around a strong core group of players. © BCCI

One of only three teams to clinch the Indian Premier League title more than once, Mumbai Indians have been a force to reckon with over the years, making it to the knockout stage six out of seven times since 2010, including three final appearances. Despite being slow starters, especially in the last three years, Mumbai have managed to turn things around in dramatic fashion. Their experience in recovering from the initial stumbles holds them in good stead and they will go into the 10th edition as one of the favourites regardless of the fact that they exited early last year.

In the last three years, there has been a common theme when it comes to how Mumbai start their campaign. They suffered five losses in a row at the start of the 2014 season, lost five out of their first six matches in 2015 and then slipped to four defeats in their first six matches in 2016. On the back of brilliant performances close to the business end of the tournament, Mumbai found the get-out-of-jail cards in both 2014 and 2015, going on to clinch a second IPL title in 2015. Rather than hitting the high notes early in the tournament, Mumbai’s symphony has always joined the cause when the rendition is nearing completion. While this saved them twice, the ensemble didn’t quite find the tune last year, which meant that Mumbai were condemned to an early exit for the first time in seven years.

The combination conundrum, injuries to key players and the indifferent form of the batsmen, barring Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu, chiefly contributed to Mumbai’s below-par showing in 2016.

Rohit and Rayudu accounted 823 runs at a combined average of 37.40, with seven half-centuries between them. But only four more fifties were scored by the rest of the batsmen, with the overseas names like Kieron Pollard, Jos Buttler and Martin Guptill being the major let-downs, along with Parthiv Patel and Hardik Pandya. The bowling, on the other hand, was on the mark as Mitchell McClenaghan and Tim Southee did a good job, as did the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Harbhajan Singh and Krunal Pandya, with the only exception being the out-of-form Hardik. Heading into IPL 2017, the former champions will be keen to iron out the issues that left them in a quandary in the earlier edition, both injury and form wise.


Like most IPL teams, Mumbai’s success formula has revolved around a core group of players, that , along with solid support from the rest of the line-up, has helped the team progress from strength to strength. Overseas names, seasoned India internationals, x-factor players or uncapped talents, Mumbai have it all.


If the previous three seasons of IPL are anything to go by, Mumbai Indians, despite possessing a star-studded line-up, have not got the kind of starts they would have hoped for. The late blooming may not always work, as they found out last season, and they would be aware of the importance of a good start and sustaining the momentum.


In the absence of Lasith Malinga, Tim Southee, bowling in partnership with McClenaghan, proved to be a vital cog last season and Mumbai might prefer him over the slingy Sri Lankan pacer, who is prone to injuries. Mumbai have also stocked up their options by bringing in Mitchell Johnson, who had played a key role in their path to the title in 2013, along with value additions like K Gowtham, who had a superb domestic season, and Saurabh Tiwary.


The major concern for Mumbai will be the fitness of their skipper Rohit, who has had a fair share of injury problems of late. Having recovered from a thigh injury, which had led to a lengthy lay-off, Rohit featured in two games in the Vijay Hazare Trophy before backing out of the subsequent Deodhar Trophy due to a troublesome knee. While he is expected to be fit in time for the IPL, Mumbai will be hoping that he lasts the distance as his absence at a crucial juncture could prove to be a body blow.

What the schedule holds

A look at Mumbai’s IPL 2017 schedule reveals an even spread of home and away games over the duration of the season. Also, the longest breaks in between games for Mumbai are two four-day offs barring which they do not have too many breaks, depriving them of sufficient recovery time.

Ever since the inception of the T20 league, MumbaiIndians have opted for the star attractions – be it picking the players or the support staff, the Mukesh Ambani-owned franchise hasn’t spared any expense. However, they have been smart with their buys in the last few years, concentrating on value for money. Their latest acquisitions include the likes of Nicholas Pooran and Asela Gunaratne, who offer solid backup in the overseas department, while local signings such as Siddhesh Lad, Deepak Puniya, Karn Sharma and Kulwant Khejroliya beef up the bench strength and make for quality replacement options. With all bases covered, Mumbai will be eager to become the dominant force they were two seasons ago.

Ideal starting eleven: Rohit Sharma (c), Parthiv Patel (wk), Lendl Simmons/Jos Buttler, Ambati Rayudu, Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Harbhajan Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell McClenaghan, Tim Southee/Lasith Malinga

© Cricbuzz




Hearthstone Gives Away Free Packs to Celebrate Year of the Mammoth

Hearthstone Gives Away Free Packs to Celebrate Year of the Mammoth

Log in to Hearthstone starting March 29th to claim your rewards.

Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

In preparation for the launch of Journey to Un’Goro, the next Hearthstone expansion, Blizzard is giving away free dust, gold, and packs to players just for logging into the game. The event begins on March 29th and requires players to log in to Hearthstone each day to claim their rewards. Because the launch of Journey to Un’Goro will also introduce the next year of Standard, cards from some of the previous expansions will rotate out. As such, Blizzard’s free giveaway is an excellent chance for players to get a head start on collecting cards from the new expansion.

See below for a list of all the rewards:

March 29: 50 gold

50 gold March 30: Mean Streets of Gadgetzan card pack

Mean Streets of Gadgetzan card pack March 31: 100 Dust

100 Dust April 1: Whispers of the Old Gods card pack

Whispers of the Old Gods card pack April 2: Journey to Un’Goro card pack

Journey to Un’Goro card pack April 3: 50 gold

50 gold April 4: Journey to Un’Goro card pack

Journey to Un’Goro card pack April 5: Golden Volcanosaur

Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

New Hero

Don’t forget that Maiev Shadowsong, a new hero for the Rogue class, will also be available to unlock once Journey to Un’Goro launches. She will be the first alternative to Valeera Sanguinar for the Rogue class in Hearthstone. Players can unlock Maiev by winning 10 games in Standard Ranked or Casual mode after the expansion hits.