Listen: Full script of Episode 43 of Spodcast where we discuss Virat Kohli's absence from Asia Cup squad, Khel Ratna Awards and more
Read the full script of episode 43 of Spodcast, Firstpost's sports podcast, where we discuss India beginning their Asia Cup campaign sans skipper Virat Kohli, Mirabai Chanu getting nominated for Khel Ratna among other things.
Welcome to Spodcast, the sports update on Firstpost.
We’re starting with cricket today. Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly said Virat Kohli’s absence won’t be a factor for India when they play against Pakistan in the Asia Cup. Ganguly said, “Virat Kohli's absence won't be a factor, they are a better side.” He also said that Pakistan have improved in their performances, adding, “It will be a 50-50 contest in Dubai."
India start their Asia Cup campaign against Hong Kong on Tuesday and play Pakistan on Wednesday.
India have won the Asia Cup six times while Pakistan have claimed the title twice. The two teams last met in the Champions Trophy final in England last year, when Pakistan beat India by 180 runs.
Virat Kohli is taking time off after a grueling tour of England and Rohit Sharma will lead India in the Asia Cup. Sharma admitted that the Indian team's middle-order is still fluid and their objective is to identify players for the number four and six slots over the course of the tournament. Sharma also said players like Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav and Ambati Rayudu are competing for the middle-order slots. He said, “All these guys are eyeing...those slots. We want to give chances to as many guys for this particular series. In this tournament, we need to seal the batting slot Nos 4 and 6... Rayudu was originally part of England series and, similarly, Kedar before his injury. It was unfortunate that they couldn't play for some time and I am very happy that both are back in the team. I expect them to win matches for India.”
India have also been training with the help of left-arm throw down specialist Nuwan Seneviratne of Sri Lanka. Sharma said this is being done keeping in mind left-arm pacers like Mohammad Amir, Usman Khan and Mitchell Starc whom India will encounter in their next few assignments. He said, “We will play in Australia and even in Asia Cup, where (we) will face a few left-armers. It is a great move (by the) BCCI and (he) is quite accurate with what he does. He is a great addition to our team."
Cricketer Kohli and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu have been recommended for India’s highest sporting honour — the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.
Kohli, the ICC’s number one ranked Test batsman this year, has had an amazing run for three years now. He has scored a total of 58 centuries in international cricket, second only to Sachin Tendulkar’s 100 in the list of India's century-scorers in international cricket. He missed out on the award, despite nominations, in 2016 and 2017.
Mirabai is the current Commonwealth Games gold medallist and India's only medal hope in weightlifting going into the 2020 Olympics. The Khel Ratna will be a huge boost for Mirabai who is recovering from a lower back injury that forced her to skip the Asian Games in Jakarta.
Many other sports persons have been recommended for the Arjuna Award — junior world champion Hima Das, Asian Games gold-medalist Jinson Johnson, cricketer Smriti Mandhana, hockey players Manpreet Singh and Savita Punia, Commonwealth Games gold medallist in table tennis Manika Batra, and tennis player Rohan Bopanna who won two Asian Games gold medals.
According to a PTI report, boxer Amit Panghal, who won a gold at the Asian Games, was also in contention for an award but the committee decided against recommending his name due to a failed dope test back in 2012.
Khel Ratna awardees receive cash prizes of Rs 7.5 lakh while Arjuna Award winners receive Rs 5 lakh. The recommendations are presented to the sports ministry for approval. Once they are ratified by the sports minister, the President will present the awards at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on 25th September.
Meanwhile, Chanu's coach Vijay Sharma and renowned cricket coach Tarak Sinha were among the names recommended for the prestigious Dronacharya Awards.
The Dronacharya award is presented to coaches for outstanding and meritorious work on a consistent basis over a period of four years. The Dhyan Chand award is given to sportspersons for lifetime achievements and contribution to sport - when active as well as when retired.
A committee that met under the chairmanship of retired judge Mukul Mudgal recommended Vijay Sharma, boxing coach CA Kuttappa and table tennis coach Srinivasa Rao for the Dronacharya award.
Boxer Vijender Singh has credited Kuttappa, an Army coach, for guiding him during his 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medal win. Tarak Sinha, who has coached cricketers like Ashish Nehra and Rishabh Pant, was recommended for the Dronacharya (lifetime) Award, along with hockey coach Clarence Lobo and judo coach Jiwan.
Hockey player Bharat Chettri, archer Satya Dev Prasad and wrestler Dadu Chowgule were recommended for the Dhyan Chand Award.
Football news now. Gareth Bale, who has won four Champions Leagues in five years at Real Madrid, said the club can be even better in their quest for a 14th championship despite the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese footballer has been the competition's top scorer for the last six seasons.
Following Ronaldo’s move to Juventus, Bale has scored in each of Real Madrid’s three La Liga wins. Bale had also come off the bench to score twice in last season's Champions League final when Real beat Liverpool 3-1. He said, “Obviously it's going to be a little different from having such a big player there... I suppose there is more of a team, more working as one unit rather than one player."
Sreeja Akula and Manika Batra entered the women's singles prequarterfinals with contrasting wins in the table tennis event of the Commonwealth Games
Smriti Mandhana, who scored 24 in India's game against Australia in Birmingham, followed it up with a match-winning unbeaten 63 off 42 balls against Pakistan