We won’t be short of any sporting action over the next two months. The Indian T20 League is back in town. As is Formula One, the Europe Claycourt ATP season, the final stretch of domestic football leagues after the international break – and then some more. =
First things first…
YUVI ON THE CHARGE
Yuvraj Singh smashed a beautiful 62 at a strike rate of 200 in the first game of the tournament – against Shane Watson’s Royal Challengers Bangalore. That may not sound politically correct, but captain Virat Kohli is injured, as is stand-in captain AB de Villiers, as well as first-choice opening batsman and wicketkeeper K.L. Rahul. As a result, a second-string side took the field in Hyderabad on Wednesday night – but put up a good fight while chasing a 200+ score. Kedar Jadhav, who batted at four, looked in great form again, but was run out by a brilliant throw from the boundary line by Ben Cutting. Singh, the Sunrisers Hyderabad southpaw, had earlier rescued his side along with the underrated Moses Henriques after the early loss of out-of-form David Warner. They won the game by 35 runs eventually.
TOURNAMENT OF THE REJECTS
Imran Tahir, the No. 1 ranked T20 and ODI bowler in the world, was not selected in this year’s auction by any franchise. The South African spinner eventually came in to the Rising Pune Supergiants to replace the injured Mitchell Marsh – and blew away the Mumbai Indians top order on Thursday night, setting the stage for his team’s superb chase under lights, led by “new” captain Steve Smith. Smith has been India’s tormentor-in-chief for more than three months now, and he extended his form to this tournament, replacing M.S. Dhoni as captain, and immediately having an effect. He scored a stunning and resourceful 85 not out while chasing Mumbai Indians’ 185 on a tricky pitch. India’s Test captain from Dharamsala, Ajinkya Rahane, opened the innings for Smith and scored a fluent 60, and even had a partnership with the Aussie, only weeks after the bitter 2-1 series victory over the Australians. Cricket is, indeed, a funny game. And money does, indeed, talk loudly.
Matches to look forward to this weekend:
Saturday, April 8, 8 PM: Royal Challengers Bangalore v/s Delhi Daredevils
Sunday, April 9, 8 PM: Mumbai Indians v/s Kolkata Knight Riders
42-year-old Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistani Test Captain, announced that he would retire after the three-match series against West Indies. This has come on the back of the spectacular collapse of the Pakistani Test form after reaching No. 1 in the world only six months ago. Since then, they lost six consecutive Test matches – one to West Indies in Dubai, two to New Zealand away and three in a row against Australia down under. Misbah’s own form was one of the telling factors, as he averaged just 12 in Australia over the three matches. He remains Pakistan’s most successful Test captain, despite taking over the reigns at an age most cricketers retire. With 24 wins in 53 matches, and an average of over 50 as a captain, his greatest achievement remains bringing the Test mace to Pakistan last year, as well as winning the World T20 championship in 2009, two years after “that” scoop to Joginder Sharma in the final of the 2007 World T20.
Not for the first time this season, the touring Bangladesh team in Sri Lanka enter the last game of a series tied with the home team. After tying, both, the Test and ODI series, they won the second T20 game at Colombo after losing the first one – this, despite a Lasith Malinga hat-trick in the penultimate over. After the series, some players from both teams will head to India to participate in the Indian T20 League – Mustafizur Rahman to the Sunrisers, Shakib al Hasan to Kolkata Knight Riders, Angelo Mathews to the Delhi Daredevils, Asela Gunaratne and Lasith Malinga to Mumbai Indians.
THE BEAUTIFUL GAME
English Premier League leaders Chelsea maintained their lead at the top by defeating rivals Manchester City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. They remain on top by seven points over Tottenham Hotspurs, who staged a brilliant comeback in the final few minutes against Swansea City after being 0-1 down till the 89th minute. They scored three in the last few minutes to steer five points clear with one game in hand from third-placed Liverpool, who drew with Bournemouth 2-2, keeping the fight for the Champions League spots alive – with Manchester City in fourth two points behind and Arsenal in fifth. Manchester United drew again at home, back to their perennial sixth place.
Brazil returned to the top spot in the FIFA world rankings for the first time since 2010, after being in sizzling form in the South American World Cup Qualifiers and becoming the first to qualify for the 2019 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
WOMAN ON TOP
P.V. Sindhu, Indian Badminton’s “number 2” till a year ago, rose to No. 2 in the world rankings this week from No. 5 after winning the Indian Open – her second Superseries win since the Olympics. Even though she lost in the first round of the Malaysia Open this week, her defeat of Olympic and World Champion Carolina Marin in the final on Sunday clinched her the career-high ranking. Sindhu has beaten Marin twice since losing to her in the Rio final, while Saina Nehwal – who Sindhu defeated on her way to the title last week – dropped to No. 9 in the rankings. Saina, though, remains the only Indian woman to scale the top of the rankings.
The Heineken Chinese Grand Prix will take place this weekend – two weeks after the first race of the 2017 season at Melbourne. Sebastian Vettel took a surprise victory for old horses Ferrari, with the two Mercedes drivers in second and third. It was also announced that the Malaysian Grand Prix in October will be the final F1 race in the country – after 19 years of being on the calendar. Sepang will be missed.