India Open 2017: Viktor Axelsen is the victor on men’s side

Viktor Axelsen went down on his knees, spread his arms wide and held the celebratory pose. Viktor Axelsen went down on his knees, spread his arms wide and held the celebratory pose.

After sealing the men’s final of the India Open with a brutal smash down the line, Viktor Axelsen went down on his knees, spread his arms wide and held the celebratory pose for a few seconds before greeting the match officials and his opponent, Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien-Chen. There was a sense of relief and ecstasy for the Dane as the scale of his achievement sunk in. Winning a Super Series tournament is no mean achievement but Axelsen’s victory was special because he had reached the final of this tournament in the last two editions but failed to win the match which mattered.

Two years ago he had lost to the home-boy Kidambi Srikanth and in the 2016 edition Japan’s Kento Momota got the better of him. However, at the end of last year Axelsen won the World Superseries Finals in Dubai, beating China’s Tian Houwei – a victory that was bound to give him a boost of confidence.

With top seeds Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan and Jan O Jorgensen pulling out of this edition of the India Open, Axelsen’s path to glory was easier. He defeated two Indians in the first two rounds: Ajay Jayaram and Srikanth respectively before playing out his only three-game match against Chinese Taipei’s Tzu Wei Wang in the quarters. In the semis he faced Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka Long, whom he defeated in less that thirty minutes.

“I don’t want to play too long. If I can make it under 30 minutes, I make it. I don’t give anything to world-class players like Chou,” he said. “I knew when I had the chance, I had to strike. I am really relieved at the moment. We play badminton to win titles. Today winning the India Open is very special to me, especially after losing two times and getting very disappointed,” he added.

Axelsen made good use of his height during the game, peppering his opponent with his steep and deep smashes. He returned Chou’s smashes, on most occasions, with ease.

Chou, never looked threatening, but tried to use the space well, leaving the Dane stranded at times. At 7-11, in favour of Axelsen in the first game, Chou unleashed a smash which forced the tall Dane to make a half-hearted dive to his right. He hurt his right knee in the process but it didn’t seem to bother him much. Axelsen pulled off the bandage seconds after it was applied and continued his onslaught, winning the first game 21-13 – winning the game point with a smash. In the next game, Axelsen was more dominant, forcing Chou to commit the errors.

“I played with good confidence and high pace as well. I was calm all the way. It was really important for me to be not driven by my emotions and I did not do that today. I am really happy at the moment,” he said.

Axelsen will take part in the Malaysia Masters next. The tournament begins on April 14, where he will play a qualifier in the first round. The big names: Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan are set to return to action at the Superseries Premier event. Axelsen will have good opportunity to test his game and temperament, which have improved a lot since last season.

“I have gotten a lot of confidence. Winning the Dubai Super Series was a huge boost for me. It gave me the calmness during the final and also the Olympics bronze medal. So yes, experience and confidence, ” he said before rushing off to catch his flight.

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9 leadership skills that one can learn from Virat Kohli

The first words that come to mind when you think of Indian cricket skipper Virat Kohli are: winning and aggression. Kohli is less enigmatic than his predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but more outgoing in approach.

He wears his heart on his sleeve, but rarely lets it get the better of him. Even Dhoni feels that the Indian team under Kohli ‘should win games more than any other captain or team has won’.

After leading India in his first 25 Tests, Kohli has been the nation’s most successful Test captain. He has 16 wins under his belt, just behind Steve Waugh’s 18 and Ricky Ponting’s 17.

Kohli has an arsenal of leadership traits that can benefit any team leader or entrepreneur.

1. Confidence: Kohli never shies away from taking bold decisions whenever a situation demands it. Often, he has stepped up to salvage an unlikely win. His exuberance and confidence are infectious. Also, having the confidence to back your winning attitude can take you leagues ahead in the organizational game.

2. Leading by example: There are two ways to lead a team: by your words or by your actions. Kohli and his teammates know that he is the best, which drives everyone in the team to reach the benchmark he has set for the rest. The fissures within a team widen when the leader takes a back seat, thinking that his juniors will do the hard work.

3. Staying focussed: Kohli hasn’t let the pride of leading Team India get the better of him. He has handled this challenge far better that even greats like Sachin Tendulkar. “Captaincy does not allow you to be complacent at any stage especially with the bat if that is your only discipline in the game, in the field as well. In that aspect I think complacency goes out of the window as captain. You tend to focus a lot more on certain situations,” he says.

4. Versatility: Versatility and adaptability are the key to longevity in any discipline. Kohli’s consistency across all three formats of the game is phenomenal. When asked about his transformation from a hotheaded bloke to a mature player, he said: “I was working on those things already on a constant basis with Anil Kumble (Indian Head Coach). I wanted to learn from my mistakes and evolve as a person.”

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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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Revived Leicester City write winning record for Criag Shakespeare

Jamie Vardy scored one of the two goals for Leicester City against Stoke City. (Source: Reuters) Jamie Vardy scored one of the two goals for Leicester City against Stoke City. (Source: Reuters)

Leicester’s revival continued under manager Craig Shakespeare as Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy handed the Foxes a 2-0 victory over Stoke in the English Premier League on Saturday.

It was Leicester’s fifth straight win in all competitions since Claudio Ranieri was fired and meant Shakespeare became the first English manager to win his first four league games.

He joined Guus Hiddink, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, and Carlo Ancelotti in having a 100 percent record after four games.

Shakespeare has guided last season’s shock champions six points clear of the relegation zone and into the Champions League quarterfinals.

Stoke remained ninth, just three points ahead of Leicester.

Leicester got the goal its early domination deserved after 25 minutes with Ndidi’s first league strike.

The midfielder collected Danny Simpson’s simple pass before advancing and unleashing an unstoppable 25-yard drive into the top corner.

Leicester extinguished any hopes of a second-half Stoke revival 76 seconds after the restart.

Simpson collected his second assist of the afternoon, swinging in a deep cross which Vardy met with a clinical volley.

It was the striker’s fifth goal in his last six club games. Vardy has been revitalised since the exit of former manager Claudio Ranieri in February.

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Evin Lewis heroics keep West Indies alive in T20I series against Pakistan

Evin Lewis starred in West Indies’ chase of 138 runs. (Source: ICC) Evin Lewis starred in West Indies’ chase of 138 runs. (Source: ICC)

Opener Evin Lewis scorched Pakistan for 91 as the West Indies finally neutralised newcomer Shadab Khan and won the third Twenty20 on Saturday. Pakistan, electing to bat first, squandered a good partnership between Kamran Akmal and Babar Azam to score an underwhelming 137-8. Lewis, who’d scored 10 and 3 in the first two losses, led the chase with 91 off 51 balls, falling two balls from the end as West Indies reached a winning 138-3 in the 15th over.

Khan, the teen legspinner who’d mesmerised the West Indies in the first two matches, was run over by Lewis like the rest of the bowlers. Khan conceded six in his first over, seven in his second, and was smacked for two sixes by Lewis in his third. In Khan’s fourth and final over, Lewis hit him for six but was out two balls later, caught at long off.

Lewis smashed nine sixes and five boundaries. The next ball, new batsman Lendl Simmons hit the winning boundary. Lewis dominated a second-wicket partnership of 56 with Marlon Samuels (18), and 76 with the recalled Jason Mohammed (17 not out). Lewis and Samuels got the fightback going from the fourth over, when they took 11 runs. Lewis plundered 18 off medium-fast bowler Sohail Tanvir in the penultimate over.

Pakistan was unchanged after winning the first two T20s but started badly. Ahmed Shehzad, last seen taken off on a stretcher with his neck in a brace on Thursday, was cleared to play but he was out in the second ball of the match, charging and missing West Indies legspinner Samuel Badree. In the same opening over, Imad Wasim was stumped for a duck. Akaml and Azam fought back well with a partnership worth 88 runs, until Akmal was caught on the midwicket boundary off Marlon Samuels. He made 48 off 37 balls, including two sixes.

Azam was on 34 at the time. He hit his first six then was out straight after for 43 off 38 balls, bowled by Sunil Narine in the 16th over. Pakistan slumped. Only one more ball was sent past the boundary. The fourth and last T20 is on Sunday at the same ground.

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Sukant Kadam breaks into top-10 of world para-badminton rankings in singles

Sukant Kadam Sukant Kadam

Pune-based Sukant Kadam has broken into the Top-10 of the BWF Para-Badminton World Rankings. A trainnee from the Nikhil Kanetkar Badminton Academy (NKBA), Sukant leapfrogged twelve places to the No 8 rank in singles of the ‘SL4’ class, according to the world rankings released on March 28, 2017.

Sukant’s rise has primarily been due to the bronze medal winning performance at the Spanish Para-Badminton International 2017 held in Majorca, Spain recently. His performance in Europe earned him 30 points and swelled his total points tally to 68.5 points. Sukant is one among the three Indians to be in the Top 10. The others are Haryana’s Tarun Dhillon (world ranking 3) and Uttar Pradesh’s Suhas L Y, who currently holds the 4th rank.

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Winning away from home will make us better: Mashrafe


Winning away from home will make us better: Mashrafe

• Last updated on Fri, 31 Mar, 2017, 06:23 PM Rex Clementine in Colombo

“People have to understand that the world over away matches are always difficult.” © AFP

Bangladesh have shown clear improvement in their cricket in recent times, but still they have to improve their record away from home. Out of the 158 One-Day Internationals they have played at home, they have won 64, but of the 165 away from home, they have won only 38.

Since the World Cup 2015, they have recorded series wins over India, Pakistan, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. But there have been fewer opportunities for them overseas. Prior to their current tour of Sri Lanka, the only ODI series they have played away since 2015 is the three-match ODI series against New Zealand in December last year, where they were whitewashed 3-0. However, Bangladesh have a fine opportunity to set that record straight on Saturday (April 1) where they go into the third and final ODI against Sri Lanka in Colombo with a 1-0 lead.

“We will become a truly good team only when we also start winning away,” Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh’s captain, said on the eve of the match on Friday (March 31). “We have won a Test match and an ODI here. So, the progress will not happen all at once. In away matches, for example, we had no clue about the Dambulla wicket – it was supposedly new. We played here a long time ago. So it is difficult to adjust to these things; it will change slowly.

“People have to understand that the world over away matches are always difficult. If you see recent Test matches, Australia are playing in India and all the teams who are playing in India, it is difficult for them. And when India visit other countries, it becomes difficult for them too. So when other teams come to Bangladesh we play well. This is the reality,” he added.

Bangladesh were lucky to escape in the second ODI after Sri Lanka looked set to square the series having posted a huge 311 before rain washed out proceedings. No team has successfully chased a total in excess of 300 in Sri Lanka, but a heavy downpour rained on Sri Lanka’s parade as the game had to be abandoned, leaving Bangladesh in a position where they cannot lose the series.

“History has always changed. History is made to change. I think they batted really well. Credit should go to them. But from our point we were very confident because the wicket was really good. But as you said, history says that it is very difficult. But we knew that if there were good partnerships, it was gettable because of the wicket. Our boys have been really positive; that was nice to see from the dressing room.”

Mashrafe, however, admitted that Bangladesh had conceded too many runs in the second ODI. “In the last match, they scored 300. Obviously the wicket was very good, but maybe we have to try to minimize 20-25 runs from that. Where they can score 300, we have to keep it to 280. So if we can do something like that the task will become easier for us. As I said, we have to play according to the plan, otherwise it will be difficult,” he said.

© Cricbuzz




Steve Smith has been like Don Bradman with the bat, says coach Darren Lehmann

As of now Steve Smith’s winning rate is now 50 per cent. (Source: PTI) As of now Steve Smith’s winning rate is now 50 per cent. (Source: PTI)

While Australia might have conceded the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to India after losing the series 2-1 to the hosts, what stood out for the visitors was the performance of captain Steve Smith. Complementing the Australian captain, coach Darren Lehmann has said that of late Smith’s skills with the bat had become”Bradman-like”.

Speaking to the media, Lehmann said,”He’s been brilliant, he’s been unbelievable. He’s been Bradman-like with the bat but all the stuff behind the scenes has been exceptional. Really pleased for him and what he’s brought to the team as a leader. The way they’ve gone about it has been impressive. They (the Australia team) have been young, they’ve been up against it, the pitches have be as we would expect. There’s a lot of learnings in this group over this tour.”

Commenting about the result of the series, Lehmann said,”They’re all hurt and disappointed for the result but really pleased with the effort and the attitude and trying to change the way we play here. “He’s led from the front the captain. “Three hundreds in four Test matches is pretty special.”

Meanwhile, when Lehmann was asked if Smith could prove himself to be at least the equal of other great Australian captains like Taylor, Waugh and Ponting he said,” I think so, he’s a cricket nuffie; loves the game. He’s passionate about the game, loves the game, loves his players. Helps support staff out. He’s right behind the scenes, he’s into it every day, making sure everyone is OK.

“I’ve been so proud of him as a leader. He’s a different leader to Michael [Clarke] to Ricky to Mark Taylor to Steve Waugh. And he’s working out his own identity as a captain. But I’ve been proud of him; everyone has been proud of him. So, pleased with where he is going and he’ll just get better and better.”, Lehmann added.

As of now Smith’s winning rate is now 50 per cent but there is plenty of scope and time for improvement. But only time will tell if he can emulate the former Australian greats.

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