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LISTEN: Full script of Episode 203 of Spodcast where we discuss Mary Kom's upcoming 51-kg competitive debut, CSK's rebuilding plans and more

Welcome to Spodcast, the sports update on Firstpost.

MS Dhoni is considered one of the shrewdest brains of modern day cricket, but at the end of the day he is also a human being and he sometimes goes wrong with his tips, said India spinner Kuldeep Yadav.

Kuldeep made the remarks in jest when asked whether he, in any point of time in his career, had questioned the former India World Cup-winning captain about his tips. The young spinner spoke with PTI at the sidelines of the CEAT Cricket Rating Awards on Monday in Mumbai. He said, "There are a lot of times he (Dhoni) goes wrong but then you can't say that to him...he doesn't speak much). He speaks only between overs if he thinks he needs to point out something."

Dhoni was the captain of the Indian team that won the 2007 ICC T20 World Cup and the ODI World Cup winning team in 2011. He quit Test cricket in 2014 and then gave up ODI and T20 captaincy in 2017. He now plays only as a wicketkeeper-batsman under Virat Kohli's captaincy for India. The 37-year-old has only retained his captaincy for the Indian Premier League franchise Chennai Super Kings.

Following CSK's loss to Mumbai Indians in the IPL final, the team's head coach Stephen Fleming acknowledged the need to rebuild an "ageing squad" to get past the batting issues that dogged them throughout the season.

The CSK squad has an average age of 34 for the core team but proved that age is just a number, thanks to the championship win in 2018 as well as reaching the finals yet again this year. That said, both Fleming and MS Dhoni admitted they could have done a lot more in the batting department. Fleming said, "We will give some time for the dust to settle down. I think if you win one title and reach the final next time, you have had a good two years. We do understand that we are an ageing team. So at some point, we just have to look at recreating the side."

He said the planning for next season will begin after Dhoni returns from the 2019 World Cup. The former New Zealand skipper said that much like other teams created a new pool of talent, CSK will enter a rebuilding phase. Speaking about CSK's batting department, Fleming explained, "This year in Chennai was tough (the turning track), the conditions were tough to read, hard to play. A little bit of training as well, our batters weren't big enough from the form point of view. If we look at the aggregate of numbers from our top order, we could have liked a bit more. Batting certainly was a weak part of our game this season, there is a lot of work to do...But at the same time, how much more do you need? We got to the final, we went till the last ball. Of course, we didn't have a good season with the bat. But there was never a lack of effort."

Tennis superstar Serena Williams made a winning return from injury on Monday, beating Swedish qualifier Rebecca Petersen 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the second round of the Italian Open clay-court tournament.

Williams' last appearance was a hard-fought three-set win over Petersen in the second round at the Miami Open in March, after which she withdrew on account of a knee injury. The 23-time Grand Slam winner - now ranked 11th in the world - also withdrew from Indian Wells in March due to illness.

Watched by her husband Alexis Ohanian, Williams on Monday sealed victory on her second match point against 64th-ranked Petersen after 76 minutes. The Italian Open serves as a warm-up for the French Open that starts in two weeks' time.

Williams said after the match, "I felt good, I wasn't sure how it was going to feel. It's been a while. I haven't played a ton of matches this year, not by choice, just by force. I really, really, actually desperately wanted to be on the tour and to be playing, but it hasn't been able to work out. It felt good to finally be back out. Hopefully I'll be able to keep it up. I got here pretty early really, I wanted to get used to the conditions and 'real clay' and it was good I did that."

Serena admitted it has been a struggle to maintain her fitness as she recovered from injury. She explained, "I haven't been able to train or practice a lot, I was out much longer than I expected...I did everything I could to stay fit...I love the clay season and wanted to do everything to be a part of it and I'm here. I've just been on this diet basically. It's been awful. When you're sedentary, it becomes hard to manage your body. So it's just basically you have to eat grass. It was a nightmare. But it worked and it paid off. I feel like I'm taking it one day at a time. For me obviously it's about playing well at all the big moments, including this tournament because it is a big moment."

Williams last won on the red clay of the Foro Italico in 2016. She will play either her older sister Venus, who received a wildcard entry to the tournament she won in 1999, or Belgian Elise Mertens in the second round. Should Serena and Venus meet in Rome, it will be their first face off on European clay in nearly 17 years.

In boxing news, Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom will make her competitive 51-kg debut at home in the second edition of the India Open boxing tournament, which will be held in Guwahati from 20-24 May.

With Olympic qualification just around the corner, the India Open will see 35 men and 37 women boxers from India vying for glory. In all, 200 boxers from 16 boxing powerhouses will participate in the USD 70,000 tournament.

Keeping in mind the approved weight categories for Olympic qualification, some of the Indian pugilists have changed their weight divisions. After her stunning performance at the Asian Championships, where she became the first Indian to win a gold in 81kg, Pooja Rani has gone back to her original weight category of 75kg. Assam's Bhagyabati Kachari too made a similar change while Asian Championships bronze medallist Manisha Moun will be fighting it out in 57kg for the very first time. Simranjit Kaur, a silver medallist at the continental tournament in 64kg, has switched to 60kg and will be competing with former world champion Sarita Devi, who added her eighth Asian medal this year. While Mary Kom will be India's biggest medal hope yet again, Amit Panghal will be looking to continue his dominance in the 52kg category after conquering the Asian Championships gold. Assam's Shiva Thapa and Ankushita Boro will be aiming to impress the home crowd as will 2017 World Boxing Championships bronze medallist in 56kg Gaurav Bidhuri

Mary Kom had opted out of the Asian Championships last month in order to prepare for the World Championships as the event will serve as good preparatory ground for Olympic qualification. She said, "I have been preparing well for 51kg category. Having got a real...idea of the competition in this class in Germany, I am ready to give my best at this tournament and test myself ahead of the World Championships. I am glad the event will be hosted in Assam this time. With the North-East being a powerhouse of talent, I hope this gives an opportunity to the youngsters to watch and get inspired by watching us live."

Ajay Singh, President of the Boxing Federation of India, said, "The India Open is a great opportunity for the Indian boxers. In the run-up to their preparations for the World Championships, they will be facing some of the top boxers including Asian Games and World champions."

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Updated Date: May 14, 2019 13:39:05 IST