Firstpost Spodcast Episode 252: India clinch mixed doubles gold at Commonwealth TT Championships, squads for West Indies tour announced and more

Welcome to Spodcast, where we take a look at the day's big sports headlines.

The BCCI's selection committee, in an obvious move to strengthen India's fragile middle-order batting, announced the return of Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey in the ODI squad for the series against the West Indies.

The big exclusions from the series are Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, and MS Dhoni.

Wriddhiman Saha, who is said to be one of the best wicketkeepers in India, returned to the Test squad after a prolonged injury hiatus. Rishabh Pant, who had a middling World Cup, has been named the keeper in all three formats for the West Indies series.

Chief selector MSK Prasad said, "We have taken India A performances into consideration. In the longer format, KS Bharat was very, very close to get(ting) selected. We have an unwritten norm when a senior cricketer is injured, he should get a comeback opportunity. That's what we have given to Saha."

Bhuvneshwar Kumar will spearhead the bowling in the shortest format with Mohammed Shami joining in for the three ODIs. The selectors have chosen left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed for the white-ball leg of the tour. Shami will be accompanied by Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav in the Test series. Interestingly, spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has been included only in the ODI squad.

Bumrah has been rested for the ODI series while Hardik has been rested for the entire tour. Dhoni's exclusion was expected as the former captain had informed the cricket board he would be taking a two-month sabbatical from international cricket. As per a report on Saturday, a BCCI official said that Dhoni will be taking a sabbatical to serve his paramilitary regiment which he had committed to much earlier.

Meanwhile, Shikhar Dhawan has recovered from his thumb injury and will make his return to the limited-overs side.

India added another golden chapter to the 21st Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships when the mixed doubles pair of G Sathiyan and Archana Kamath defeated Singapore's Peng Yu En Koen and Goi Rui Xuan 3-0 in the final in Cuttack on Sunday.

That win made it three golds for India with one day remaining in the tournament.
The Indian pair was on top in the final as they piled on the agony of their rivals, particularly on a tired Peng who could not cope with the pressure applied by the top-seeded duo.

In some small measure, the win also avenged the earlier loss of Sharath Kamal and Sreeja Akula in the semi-final by the same Singaporean pair as well as the defeat of Sharath in men's singles quarterfinals by Peng. Second-seeded Sharath squandered three match points and then the quarterfinal match, shattering his men singles medal hope. Though he failed to go past the semi-finals in mixed doubles, he would certainly rue the singles loss to the younger legs of Peng in the quarters. Meanwhile, top-seeded G. Sathiyan, who beat Nigerian Bode Abiodun 4-0, and Harmeet Desai, who accounted for fellow Indian Sushmit Sriram 4-1 made it through to the next round.

In women's singles, top-seed Ho Tin-Tin of England beat the unseeded Archana Kamath, the reigning national champion, 4-1 to enter the semi-finals. Second-seeded Madhurika Patkar and fourth seed Ayhika Mukerjee followed the English woman into the last-four while Sreeja Akula, in a marathon battle, defeated Sutirtha Mukherjee 4-2.

In men's doubles, two Indian pairs -- Sharath and Sathiyan, and Anthony Amalraj and Manav Thakkar - made it to the semi-finals. In women's doubles, three Indian pairs - Pooja Sahasrabudhe and Krittiwika Singha Roy; Sreeja Akula and Mousumi Paul; and Sutirtha Mukherjee and Ayhika Mukherjee, entered the semi-finals.

PV Sindhu's hopes of breaking a seven-month title drought came crashing down as she lost in straight games to Akane Yamaguchi in the final of Indonesia Open on Sunday.

Playing her first final of the season, Sindhu looked a bit anxious and failed to match the brilliance of the 22-year-old Yamaguchi, losing 15-21, 16-21 to a player she had beaten in the last four meetings. The best play in the match came at 15-11 in the second game when the duo played a 51-shot rally which ended with Sindhu making a judgement error.

Sunday's defeat added to Sindhu's list of runners-up finishes, which include silvers at the World Championships, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Thailand Open and India Open last year. In 2019, prior to this, Sindhu reached the semi-finals of Singapore Open and India Open. Meanwhile, it was Yamaguchi's third title of the season after winning the German Open and the Asian Championship.

In tennis news, taking a big step forward, Indian youngster Sumit Nagal assured himself of a maiden appearance in the main draw of an ATP 500 tournament after qualifying for the Hamburg European Open.

The 21-year-old pipped Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, world number 128 and seeded third at Hamburg, 6-4, 7-5 in the second and final qualifying round of the clay-court event. Before this, the 205-ranked Nagal competed in the main draw of the ATP 250 Tata Open Maharashtra in 2018 as a qualifier. Nagal has enjoyed continued success in the last few weeks on the Challenger circuit, where he made five semi-finals in seven tournaments. He recorded the biggest win of his career when he beat world number 56 Martin Klizan at the Bratislava Open last month. He began the year ranked beyond 350 but is now very close to cracking the top-200.

Of late, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Yuki Bhambri are the only Indians to have played at the big stage. ATP 500 events are next only to ATP Masters 1000 tournaments and the Grand Slams

In football news, Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane said the La Liga giants are poised to offload Welsh star Gareth Bale in the coming days. Bale was left off Real Madrid's roster for Saturday's 3-1 exhibition loss to Bayern Munich at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Bale joined Real Madrid six seasons ago, arriving to much fanfare and a blockbuster transfer fee. He has three seasons left on his deal and has been linked to Tottenham, Manchester United and Bayern. His brace, including a brilliant bicycle kick, sank Liverpool in the 2018 final, but he was shunted aside by Zidane as soon as he returned to the Real bench in early March. After Zidane's reappointment, Bale played 90 minutes in just three of the remaining 11 matches, was left out completely four times and frequently substituted when he did play.

Zidane explained, "He wasn't included in the squad because the club is working on his departure and that's why he didn't play...We'll have to see what happens in the coming days. We'll have to see if it goes through tomorrow, if it does then all the better. Let's hope, for everyone's sake, that it happens soon."

Zidane insists the 30-year-old forward is not a good fit for his squad. While Bale would be welcome at a host of marquee clubs, his big salary may prove to be an obstacle for all but the richest teams. Zidane said, "It's nothing personal. There comes a time when things are done because they need to be done. I've not got anything against him. We have to make decisions and change things, that's all there is to it. I don't know if this will happen in 24 or 48 hours' time. The situation will change and it's for the best for everyone."

However, Gareth Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett said, "Zidane is a disgrace, he shows no respect for a player that has done so much for Real Madrid." Asked whether Bale is close to leaving Madrid, Barnett replied, "We are working on it".

Updated Date: Jul 22, 2019 13:05:37 IST