Welcome to Spodcast.
We begin with table tennis. Manika Batra became the first Indian woman to break into the table-tennis top-50 yesterday. Batra, who was ranked 51 previously, moved up four places to 47 in the February rankings released by the International Table Tennis Federation.
G Sathiyan, who was ranked 31 previously, is now at 28 while veteran Sharath Kamal, who achieved a career-best ranking of 30 has dropped three places to 33. Kamal was awarded the Padma Shri last week.
Indian table tennis had a landmark year in 2018. The men's team won the country's first medal at the Asian Games to end a 60-year-wait. Sharath and Batra also combined to win a second bronze medal for India.
KL Rahul will play for India A in their first unofficial Test against England Lions in Wayanad from 7-10 February. Rahul was suspended after the controversy surrounding his appearance Koffee With Karan with fellow cricketer Hardik Pandya. Their offensive remarks on the show earned them suspensions from the BCCI, but those were set aside pending an inquiry by an ombudsman who will be appointed by the Supreme Court.
The match against England Lions will be Rahul's first game after the suspension was withdrawn. The 14-member India A squad will be captained by Maharashtra's Ankit Bawne. Fast bowler Varun Aaron, who last played for India back in 2015, is also part of the team. With just 25 wickets from seven Ranji games, Aaron has had an ordinary season but sources close to selection committee told the Press Trust of India that the once injury-prone Jharkhand speedster will be monitored in order to broaden the fast bowling pool. The other pace bowlers in the squad are Shardul Thakur, who is coming back from injury, Avesh Khan and Navdeep Saini.
Sri Lanka's preparations for the final Test against Australia suffered more setbacks on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka's problems began when bowlers Lahiru Kumara and Dushmantha Chameera were forced to return home after picking up injuries in the first Test in Brisbane.
Now comes news that coach Chandika Hathurusingha was stripped of his team selection responsibilities while the batting coach returned home for personal reasons.
Sri Lanka Cricket did not give any reasons for the move. Its press statement said, "The majority decision of the manager, captain and members of the selection committee shall prevail on any selection made." The board's statement also said that batting coach Jon Lewis was "on leave to attend a family matter". Avishka Gunawardena will fly to Australia to replace him.
Sri Lanka, who lost the first test by an innings and 40 runs, are desperate to make amends in the second test. They also had a forgettable tour of New Zealand, losing the Test series 1-0, the ODI series, 3-0 as well as the solitary T20 match.
There were reports of another controversy brewing on Wednesday morning. All-rounder Thisara Perera has hit back at ODI skipper Lasith Malinga's wife Tanya for alleging on social media that he had requested the Sri Lankan sports minister's help to secure his place in the one-day side.
The second Test between Sri Lanka and Australia will start on Friday in Canberra.
Moving on, British investigators said it is "likely" that two seat cushions, which washed up on the French shore this week are from the missing plane carrying Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala to Cardiff. Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch said, "From a preliminary examination we have concluded that it is likely that the cushions are from the missing aircraft."
Sala was on his way from France to take part in his first training session with Cardiff. Two days earlier, the 28-year-old who played for French club Nantes, had completed a £15 million ($20 million) deal with Cardiff City FC. On 21 January, the aircraft carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson lost contact. AFP reported that Guernsey police had suspended the official search for the plane on Thursday, but a privately funded search had continued. Top footballers were among the more than 4,500 contributors to a crowdfunding page, which raised over 360,000 euros to search for Sala and pilot David Ibbotson.
A minute's silence was observed before Cardiff's match on Tuesday, the first since the plane went missing. Nantes also paid an emotional tribute to Emiliano Sala at the Stade de la Beaujoire on Wednesday.
An ISL update now. Bengaluru FC climbed back to the top of the points table after a thrilling 2-1 win over North East United.
Bengaluru were aggressive from the get-go, as they have been all season. The pressure paid off as Mislav Komorski scored an own goal in the 14th minute, handing Bengaluru a 1-0 lead. North East tried to equalize but had no luck as Bengaluru goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had yet another great game. Eventually, in the 60th minute, United's Federico Gallego scored the equaliser when his right-footer got past Sandhu's legs.
However, 11 minutes later, Chencho Gyeltshen scored Bengaluru's winner. Gallego nearly scored another equalizer three minutes into stoppage time but Sandhu made another timely save to keep Bengaluru ahead.
After this win, Bengaluru are top of the table with 30 points from 13 matches. Mumbai, who have 27 points from 13 matches, are in second place while North East United are third with 23 points from 14 matches.
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Updated Date: Jan 31, 2019 12:01:02 IST