Welcome to Spodcast, the sports update on Firstpost.
1. The seventh season of the Pro Kabaddi League is underway and Monday witnessed two great matches in Hyderabad.
Jaipur Pink Panthers produced an all-round effort to beat U Mumba 42-23 while Haryana Steelers began their campaign in season seven with a 34-24 win over Puneri Paltan.
Jaipur's raiders were in fine form and picked up points at regular intervals, whereas their defence showed strength and toughness to contain U Mumba raiders. Deepak Hooda finished with a super 10, while Deepak Narwal, who scored six points, and Nitin Rawal, who scored seven points, also chipped in.
At one point in the first half, it seemed as if Jaipur’s raiders were scoring raid points at will. At the end of the first half, Jaipur led 22-9.
On the other hand, U Mumba’s defence let them down as they scored just five tackle points on the night. They were caught off guard with Jaipur's quick start and suffered an all out in the seventh minute to trail 2-10.
It was a more evenly-matched contest in the second half as U Mumba got their act together. But in the final five minutes, it was a Deepak show as he picked up raid points at regular intervals to record his first super 10 of the season.
In the other match of the evening, an excellent performance by Naveen, who scored 14 points saw the Haryana Steelers defeat Pune by 10 points. It was a special match as two of India's finest players — Anup Kumar and Rakesh Kumar — squared off against each other.
Anup is the coach of Puneri Paltan while Haryana Steelers are being coached by his long-time teammate Rakesh Kumar.
Puneri Paltan had a strong start as Pawan Kadian made a two-point raid to give them a 3-0 lead in the first few minutes of the match. Haryana came back strongly to inch slightly ahead in the first five minutes. It was an evenly-matched contest in the first 10 minutes, but Haryana Steelers shifted gears soon thereafter. Puneri Paltan suffered an all out in the 15th minute to trail 8-20.
Haryana, who were ahead 22-10 at the halfway mark, managed to maintain their lead. With less than five minutes left in the match, and Haryana comfortably placed at 30-20, Puneri Paltan tried desperately to score quick points but the Steelers’ defence managed to avoid crumbling under the pressure.
2) Harmeet Desai and Ayhika Mukherjee won the men's and women's singles titles as hosts India completed a clean sweep, claiming all the seven gold medals on offer at the 21st Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships on Monday.
Interestingly, all the finals featured only Indian athletes.
Harmeet defeated compatriot and favourite G Sathiyan 4-3 in a hard-fought final to claim the men's singles title.
After being down 0-2, Harmeet made a fantastic comeback to outwit Sathiyan in a marathon seven game contest. In women’s singles, Ayhika won her maiden gold in the championships, thrashing former national champion Madhurika Patkar 4-0.
Pooja Sahasrabudhe and Krittwika Sinha Roy defeated compatriots Sreeja Akula and Mousumi Paul 3-1 to claim the women's doubles crown while Anthony Amalraj and Manav Thakkar claimed the men's doubles gold by stunning top seeds Sathiyan and Sharath Kamal 3-1.
In the end, Indian paddlers topped the medal tally with seven gold, five silver and three bronze. England, with 2 silver and 3 bronze, were second while Singapore finished with 6 bronze medals.
3) With the Tokyo Olympics only a year away, Indian table tennis' new foreign coach Dejan Papic is yet to join the national team, and this is affecting the paddlers' preparation for the showpiece event.
India's premier table tennis player Sharath Kamal said yesterday, “Massimo (Costantini) had to go for some family issues and after that a coach was finalised but we don't know when he will be joining. Without a coach it is difficult to prepare for the Olympics.”
In March, the Table Tennis Federation of India had roped in Papic as chief coach in place of the long-serving Massimo Costantini, who quit last year citing personal reasons. Under Costantini, India had made big strides, with historic performances at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and Jakarta Asian Games, where India ended a 60-year-wait for a table tennis medal.
Papic had interacted with the senior Indian players during the World individual championships in Budapest. He was expected to join the team this month with the ongoing Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships in Cuttack supposed to be his first assignment at home.
Sharath claimed, “You see the results, it is just me, G Sathiyan and Manika (Batra)...doing well. We are training on our own and taking care of our singles training but for doubles we need specialised coaching. The coach came for the world championship. Now, in...11 months, he has to figure out everything. By the time he does, it will be December. Our preparation for singles is going on but mixed doubles is an issue...We have a good chance of qualifying as a team for the Olympics. We are seeded between 9 to 11 and 16 teams qualify. We are still favourites to qualify.”
A TTFI official said, “The Sports Authority of India has cleared his appointment and we have sent Papic his letter 4-5 days back. We are waiting for him to sign it and send (it) back.”
4) It is the end of an era. Veteran Sri Lankan pace bowler Lasith Malinga will call time on his ODI career on 26 July.
The man who bowled yorkers with never-seen-before precision will play his final ODI against Bangladesh, skipper Dimuth Karunaratne said on Monday. It will be the first of a three-match ODI series between hosts Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Speaking at the team's press conference, Karunaratne said, “He is going to play the first match. After that he is retiring. That's what he said to me. I don't know what he said for the selectors but for me he said he is playing only one match.”
Malinga, who set a modern benchmark for pinpoint precision in pace bowling, will finish his career as Sri Lanka's third highest wicket-taker in ODIs. He has taken 335 wickets in 219 innings so far. Only the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan, who took 523 wickets, and Chaminda Vaas, who took 399, have claimed more wickets than Malinga in ODIs for Sri Lanka.
Malinga was Sri Lanka's highest wicket-taker at the World Cup, claiming 13 scalps in seven innings. He announced his retirement from Test cricket back in 2011.
5) Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised Pakistani-Americans that he is working on a plan to develop the "best cricket team of the world" following the debacle of the country in the recently-concluded ICC World Cup in the UK.
Referring to the performance of the Pakistani team in the World Cup, Khan said he has "started working on developing the best cricket team of the world in the next tournament, by bringing the best players in the team". He, however, did not divulge details about his plans.
Imran Khan is currently on a three-day visit to the USA. During the World Cup, Khan had given a pep talk to the country's cricket team, asking them to banish the fear of losing to India in the crucial ICC Cricket World Cup match on 16 June. Pakistan subsequently lost that match to India, and could not make it to the semi-finals of the World Cup.
They finished fifth in the points table. Former chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board Najam Sethi blamed the present management of the board for the team's poor showing at the World Cup.
Updated Date: Jul 23, 2019 12:20:01 IST