LISTEN: Full script of Episode 129 of Spodcast where we discuss Hardik Pandya-KL Rahul suspension, Rafael Nadal's win and more

Welcome to Spodcast, the sports update on Firstpost where we look at the big headlines of the day.

The BCCI on Thursday lifted the suspension of cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul with immediate effect. Sources indicated that Hardik Pandya would join India's ODI team in New Zealand while Rahul will either join the India A squad for the home series against England Lions or play in the domestic circuit.

The Committee of Administrators, after consulting new amicus curiae PS Narasimha, decided to lift the suspension pending an inquiry, for which an ombudsman will be appointed by the Supreme Court. The court will likely hear the matter on 5 February.

The statement by the CoA read, "Since the adjudication of all allegations of misconduct against any cricketer registered with, inter alia, the BCCI is required to be undertaken by the BCCI Ombudsman, whose appointment is pending directions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India, the CoA is the of the view that the interim suspension orders dated 11.01.2019 should be presently lifted with immediate effect."

While CoA member Diana Edulji wanted BCCI office-bearers to be involved in determining the fate of the two players, CoA chief Vinod Rai dismissed the suggestion saying it would have violated the Board's constitution.

PTI reported that the idea of letting the players get on with the game was first mooted by BCCI acting president CK Khanna, who wanted the suspensions to be lifted pending inquiry. He said, "I did not wish this issue to turn into an administrative mess. For me, it was paramount that Hardik and Rahul return to action and inquiry can also simultaneously continue. If Ben Stokes could continue playing while the court case was on, why can't that be applicable for Pandya and Rahul?" He added, "Hardik and Rahul have been punished enough and they will emerge as better human beings. For now, the focus should be on winning World Cup where Hardik might play a massive part."

That sentiment seems to be gaining currency of late. Former captains Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly also said "it's time to move on" as both would have learnt from their mistakes. Karan Johar, host of the show where the offending remarks were made, also expressed regret, saying, "I feel very responsible because it was my show, it was my platform. I have had so many so many sleepless nights just wondering about how I can undo this damage, who is going to listen to me…"

In any case, the COA has decided to introduce behavioural counselling for all representative national teams - the senior team, India A, Under 19. Pandya and Rahul will attend these classes with the senior team that will also have sessions on gender sensitisation.

The Indian women's team defeated New Zealand by nine wickets in the first ODI played in Napier yesterday. Smriti Mandhana top scored with 105 while 18-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues scored 81 as India chased down 193 in just 33 overs.

The women's team is touring New Zealand at the same time as the men's team - their first series after the furore that followed their T20 World Cup exit last year. Mandhana, who was named ICC women's cricketer of the year for 2018, slammed her fourth ODI hundred in just 104 balls while Rodrigues brought up her maiden international half-century.

Speaking after the match, Indian captain Mithali Raj said, "I think it's great to start the series with a win and wonderful to see openers get an over 100-run partnership. I think a lot of girls do look up to Mandhana. She had a great 2018 and she is continuing and it gives a lot of confidence to the dressing room."

Rodrigues was playing in just her fifth match for India, but put together a 90-run partnership with Mandhana - the highest against New Zealand.

Earlier, the New Zealand batting, which got off to a good start, collapsed against India's bowlers. New Zealand lost their first wicket in the 14th over with the score at 61. They were all out in 48.4 overs after scoring just 192. India's spinners Poonam Yadav and Ekta Bisht took three wickets each to ensure the hosts finished with a below par score.

An Australian Open update now. Rafael Nadal continued his blistering form to reach the final while Naomi Osaka won a thrilling semifinal to make it to her second straight Grand Slam final.

Nadal, who has been in red-hot form in the tournament, dismantled Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinal. Tsitsipas has had a dream run at the Open, including defeating Roger Federer. However, he faltered against a ruthless Nadal, who has not dropped a set all tournament. Nadal also hasn't dropped his serve for 63 consecutive games! The Spaniard wrapped up the match in 1 hour 46 minutes.

After his win, he said, "It's been a great match, a great tournament. I think I have played very well every day. After a lot of months without playing...probably this court, this crowd it gives me that unbelievable energy." He also had a word of praise for Tsitsipas. He said, "He has everything to become a multi-Grand Slam champion. When at that age he is in the semi-finals that says a lot of good things about him and winning the matches that he won already, so, yeah, I hope to face him in important rounds in the next couple of years, hopefully."

In the women's draw, 21-year-old Naomi Osaka, the reigning US Open champion, reached the final after defeating Karolina Pliskova in a hard-fought semifinal. Pliskova has been in great form, defeating even Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. Osaka expected a tough match, and a tough match was what she got. She took the first set 6-2, but Pliskova returned the favor, winning the second 6-4. Osaka then took the third set 6-4 to seal a place in the final. She said after the match, "I expected it, I expected a really hard battle...I just told myself to regroup in the third set and try as hard as I could no matter what, and I managed to win. I was so scared serving second serves, I was like 'oh my God, please!' I guess that's experience, I don't know."
Osaka will face off against eighth seed Petra Kvitova in the final. If Osaka wins the final, she will also become the new world number one, replacing Simona Halep at the top.

Kvitova defeated unheralded Danielle Collins 7-6, 6-0 to win her semifinal without too much difficulty. The Two-time Wimbledon champion will play Naomi Osaka in her first Australian Open final. She struggled during the first set, but after an interruption during which the roof of the Rod Laver Arena was closed, she found her form again. Kvitova said, "I think I was happier than the fans when the roof closed, I like to play indoors and I think that helped me a little bit."

Qualifying for the final is the highlight of what Kvitova calls her 'second career' - she resumed tennis six months after being attacked in her home in late 2016. A burglar slashed her racquet hand, causing permanent nerve damage. She said after her win, "It means everything, finally I can make it deep in this major and whatever happens I'm very happy."

4) Some sad news from Europe for football fans. Police on Thursday called off the search for Argentinian player Emiliano Sala, saying the chances of finding him alive three days after his plane went missing over the English Channel were "extremely remote."

Sala, who was to move from French club Nantes to English club Cardiff City, was traveling in a small plane that disappeared around 20 kilometres north of Guernsey, located off the northern coast of France, on Monday night. The police said teams from the Channel Islands, the United Kingdom and France searched an area of approximately 4,400 square kilometres, "with a significant amount of this searched more than once".

Their statement said, "We reviewed all the information available to us, as well as knowing what emergency equipment was on board, and have taken the difficult decision to end the search. The chances of survival at this stage are extremely remote."
It has now emerged that Sala expressed concerns about the plane, according to an audio message sent to friends and relatives. He had sent a rambling WhatsApp audio message from on board that also said, "I'm on a plane that looks like it's going to fall apart."

The missing pilot has been identified as 60-year-old David Ibbotson, and police said they have informed the next of kin of both Sala and Ibbotson.

5) A badminton update now. PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, and Kidambi Srikanth qualified for the quarterfinals of the Indonesia Masters' with straight-game victories on Thursday.

Sindhu, who is seeded second, defeated Gregoria Mariska Tunjung 23-21 21-7 in 37 minutes to it to the quarterfinals of her first tournament this year. She will most likely face off against her old nemesis Carolina Marin in her next match.

Saina Nehwal defeated Indonesia's Fitriani Fitriani 21-17 21-15 to also qualify for the quarterfinals. In the men's draw, Kidambi Srikanth won 21-14 21-9 over Japanese player Kenta Nishimoto. Srikanth who lost to the Japanese in their last meeting. He fell behind 2-5 at the start but caught up quickly and grabbed an 11-8 lead at the break in the opening game. He eventually won the first game 21-14 and dominated the second to win 21-9.

Updated Date: Jan 25, 2019 12:10:43 IST