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Asian Games 2023: Bajrang Punia Makes Medal-less Exit; Aman Wins Bronze



Bajrang Punia, who entered the Asian Games after escaping the selection trials, suffered embarrassing defeats to make a medal-less exit from Hangzhou even as three other Indian wrestlers, including the talented Aman Sehrawat, won bronze medals on Friday. An under-prepared Bajrang, who spent a major part of this year protesting against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, began with two easy wins but appeared clueless against the formidable Iranian Rahman Amouzadkhalili and Japan’s Kaiki Yamaguchi.(Asian Games 2023 Medals Tally | Asian Games 2023 Full Schedule)

Vishal Kaliraman had won the Asian Games trials but the IOA ad-hoc panel, led by Bhupender Singh Bajwa, had handed Bajrang a direct entry, a decision which invited criticism from the wrestling fraternity.

Sending defending champion Bajrang, someone who was terribly short of competition time this year, in the tough men’s 65kg competition proved to be a mistake by the Bajwa-led panel.

Even Vinesh Phogat, a leading face of the wrestlers’ protest, was spared from the trials but, as luck would have it, she suffered an injury and Antim Pangal got to compete and made an impression by winning a bronze medal in Hangzhou.

Bajrang was routed 1-8 by Iran’s Amouzadkhalili in the semifinals after he beat weak opponents in the Philippines’ Ronil Tubog (8-1) and Bahrain’s Alibeg Alibegov (4-0).

Seeing an easy rival in his opening bout would have eased Bajrang’s nerves and he began with a four-pointer to go on board. The Philippines wrestler looked too overwhelmed, and could not make a single move while Bajrang raced to an 8-0 lead in the first period.

It was a matter of one take-down move, and defending champion Bajrang found that soon to finish the bout by technical superiority.

Next up for him was Alibegov, who was expected to put up a good fight but Bajrang was hardly troubled by the Bahrain wrestler. The Indian showed good defence to walk out a 4-0 winner.

Taking the mat for his toughest test of the day, Bajrang was thrashed 8-1 by Amouzadkhalili, the 2022 world champion and reigning Asian champion, who stunned the Indian with a four-pointer at the start of the bout.

The Iranian lifted and almost rolled Bajrang over after getting hold of his right leg. The four-pointer rattled Bajrang, while the Iranian stayed solid to defend his lead till the end of the first period.

Amouzadkhalili effected one more four-pointer at the start of the second period to double his lead. A desperate but flummoxed Bajrang tried two leg attacks but the Iranian defended well.

Eventually, Bajrang earned one point but the Iranian just ran away with the bout.

In the bronze play-off, Bajrang could not make a single attacking move and lost his bout by technical superiority.

The Japanese was quick with his single leg attacks that he kept converting into points. He led 4-0 at the end of the first period and continued in the same fashion in the second, controlling the bout in a splendid manner.

Sonam Malik (65kg) and Kiran (76kg) also lost their respective semifinals in the women’s competition to go out of the gold medal race as four of the five Indians in action fell at the last-four stage.

In the men’s 57kg competition, Aman moved into the quarterfinals with an easy 6-1 win over Korea’s Kim Sunggwon.

Up against Iran’s Ebrahim Mahdi Khari, who is the U20 Asian Championships silver medallist, Aman found himself trailing 1-8 in quick time but the Chhatrasal Stadium trainee turned it around in a sensational manner to win by technical superiority.

Aman reeled off 18 straight points, putting to work his immense strength and technical prowess to bamboozle the young Iranian.

Going into the second period 3-8, Aman employed a right-leg attack and tried to roll Khari, attempting a pin. The Iranian survived that move but there was no stopping Aman after that as he pulled away with one move after another.

However, he bumped into Japan’s Toshihiro Hasegawa, who raced to a 6-1 lead. It looked like Aman would effect a turnaround yet again as he reduced the deficit by taking four straight points.

It turned into a high-scoring bout with the two wrestlers pulling off attacking moves, but eventually, the Japanese prevailed 12-10.

In the bronze medal bout, Aman did not give his Chinese rival Minghu Liu any chance and closed it with a dominating technical superiority victory.

In the women’s competition, Sonam Malik (62kg) and Kiran Bishnoi (76kg) did not have to do much in the initial easy rounds but were exposed terribly when they faced better rivals in the semifinals.

Sonam did not have to break a sweat in her first two rounds in which she outclassed Nepal’s Sushila Chand and Cambodia’s Noeurn Soeurn, winning both the bouts by technical superiority in less than a minute.

Sonam was pinned by North Korea’s Hyongyong Mun, and the Indian could not score a single point against her.

She prevailed 7-5 against China’s Jia Long in a tight contest to take the bronze.

In the 11-wrestler women’s 76kg category, Kiran got a bye in her opening round and got the better of Japan’s young wrestler Nodoka Yamomoto 3-0 in the last-eight clash, to sail into the semifinals.

In the next round, she was pinned by Kazakhstan’s Zhamila Bakbergenova.

However, she redeemed herself by winning the bronze play-off 6-3 against Mongolia’s Ariunjargal Ganbat.

Radhika (68kg) was the only Indian wrestler in action on Friday who could not reach the medal round.

India have won five bronze medals so far in wrestling in this edition. Four more wrestlers will be in action on Saturday.

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Debutants Jaipur Patriots Draft Sreeja Akula As First pick Ahead Of UTT 2024




The Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) franchises put their thinking caps on and found a way to pick the best possible squads for UTT 2024 at the Player Draft on Wednesday. The upcoming season of the league is scheduled to be held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai from August 22 to September 7 and will feature eight teams for the first time and a total of 48 players, including 16 foreigners. Newcomers Jaipur Patriots, who got the first pick in Round 1, went for in-form India star and current World No. 25 Sreeja Akula, who recently became the first Indian to clinch a WTT Contender singles title.

Puneri Paltan Table Tennis, who chose not to retain a player, picked Ayhika Mukherjee to kick off proceedings. Ahmedabad SG Pipers, the other franchise to make their UTT debut, went for Manush Shah as their first choice and then bagged the services of women’s World No.10 Bernadette Szocs of Romania in the second round.

The franchise-based league is promoted by Niraj Bajaj and Vita Dani under the auspices of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI). “Today’s Player Draft is a testimony to the fact that some of the best players in the world now want to come and play in the UTT. We are very excited for UTT 2024. This is the first time we have eight teams, and we want to make this even bigger and better. We wish all the teams the best of luck for the upcoming season,” said UTT promoters Vita Dani and Niraj Bajaj.

A total of 48 players, including 16 foreigners, will be in action as teams finalised their six-member squads after the Player Draft.

“More or less, what we had discussed and strategised we got what we wanted. We wanted Sreeja and we got her in the first pick. We have a strong squad and we are confident that we can go all the way,” said Jaipur Patriots COO Imran Shaikh.

“SG Sports prides itself in getting a balanced team with excellent support staff, and we hope to create an environment of camaraderie and togetherness in the team. We’ve enjoyed success in other leagues and other sports with this same formula, so just looking to continue the same thing,” said Kartikeya Rao of Ahmedabad SG Pipers.

U Mumba TT went with the tried and tested formula by once again picking Nigerian star paddler and World No.19 Aruna Quadri. They also picked Asian Games bronze medallist Sutirtha Mukherjee. “Really glad about the way the draft went for us at U Mumba. There are no gaping holes in our squad. We were a bit worried about certain areas before the draft, but things worked out quite well and overall, I am very happy with the balance we have got,” said U Mumba CEO Suhail Chandhok.

PBG Bengaluru Smashers will have Alvaro Robles of Spain and Lily Zhang of the USA to support their retained star, Manika Batra.

“I am extremely happy with the squad we have got. Having retained Manika Batra, we have managed to pick the experienced duo of Alvaro Robles and Lily Zhang as foreign internationals, with Anthony Amalraj and Jeet Chandra as the perfect support cast for Indian men’s paddlers. Talented young paddler Taneesha Kotecha also comes as a great addition, and we are confident that this team will present a strong challenge,” said PBG Bengaluru Smashers owner Punit Balan.

Defending champions Goa Challengers, who had retained India star Harmeet Desai ahead of the draft, have a completely new look. They picked Yangzi Liu of Australia alongside young Indian paddlers Yashaswini Ghorpade and Sayali Wani. Mihai Bobocica of Italy, who had competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, will be their foreign men’s paddler.

“The drafting process is always very exciting, although we were a tad unlucky with pick number five during the drafting process. We had the same pick last year and we won the trophy. Hoping to replicate the same this year,” commented Vivek Bhargava, the owner of Goa Challengers.

Last edition’s runners-up Chennai Lions also went for a fresh look, with Japan’s Sakura Mori, Frenchman Jules Rolland, and local stars Poymantee Baisya, Mouma Das, and Abhinandh P.B. joining Indian table tennis legend Achanta Sharath Kamal, who was retained by the team. “We have a very mature team, some youngsters as well, but generally a very mature team. I’m quite happy with the picks that we’ve got considering the spot,” said G.S Ravi, owner of Chennai Lions.

Dabang Delhi will rely on Sathiyan G. along with Andreas Levenko of Austria. They also added young Indian paddlers Diya Chitale, Lakshita Narang, and Yashansh Malik to their squad.

“The draft was good for us. We anticipated we had an auction strategy in place, and for us, it has worked out well. The majority of the players that we had anticipated as part of the strategy we’ve got there,” said Durganath Wagle, CEO, Dabang Delhi TTC.


Ahmedabad SG Pipers: Manush Shah, Bernadette Szocs (Romania), Lilian Bardet (France), Reeth Tennison, Pritha Vartikar, Jash Modi

Chennai Lions: Achanta Sharath Kamal, Sakura Mori (Japan), Jules Rolland (France), Poymantee Baisya, Mouma Das, Abhinandh PB

Dabang Delhi TTC: Sathiyan G, Orawan Paranang (Thailand), Diya Chitale, Andreas Levenko (Austria), Yashansh Malik, Lakshita Narang

Goa Challengers: Harmeet Desai, Yangzi Liu (Australia), Yashaswini Ghorpade, Sudhanshu Grover, Sayali Wani, Mihai Bobocica (Italy)

Jaipur Patriots: Sreeja Akula, Cho Seungmin (South Korea), Suthasini Sawettabut (Thailand), Snehit SFR, Ronit Bhanja, Moumita Dutta

PBG Bengaluru Smashers: Manika Batra, Alvaro Robles (Spain), Lily Zhang (USA), Jeet Chandra, Taneesha Kotecha, Amalraj Anthony

Puneri Paltan Table Tennis: Ayhika Mukherjee, Nina Mittelham (Germany), Joao Monteiro (Portugal), Ankur Bhattacharjee, Anirban Ghosh, Yashini Sivashankar

U Mumba TT: Manav Thakkar, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Aruna Quadri (Nigeria), Akash Pal, Kavyasree Baskar, Maria Xiao (Spain)

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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“2 Overpaid Guys Playing IPL Final”: Mitchell Starc Reveals Hilarious Chat With Pat Cummins




After SRH paid Rs 20.5 crore for Pat Cummins, KKR splashed Rs 24.75 crore on Mitchell Starc.© BCCI

Records tumbled during the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction last year as the Rs 20 crore mark was breached not once, but twice. After SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) signed Australia captain Pat Cummins for Rs 20.5 crore, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) broke the record once again, splashing Rs 24.75 crore on Mitchell Starc. The bidding sequence received some mixed response from fans and experts. While some justified the price, there were some who were left wondering about whether the duo deserved such high a bid.

While Starc was pretty expensive during the group stage of IPL 2024, he came when it mattered the most, delivering match-winning performances in Qualifier 1 and the final.

Cummins, on the other hand, thrived on his leadership role at SRH, and was instrumental in taking his team to the final, where the 2016 champions lost to Starc’s KKR.

During a recent interaction, Starc has now admitted that both him and Cummins were a bit overpaid, and also revealed that the two had laugh about it. 

“Did Laugh. Pat & I got paid a fair bit. We played the first game & nine weeks later we play again in finals. Suddenly it goes from 2 overpaid guys to these 2 are playing the final,” Starc said on Willow Talk Cricket Podcast.

Recently, former Australia pacer Brett Lee ignored his compatriots while naming the best bowler across formats currently. He described India’s Jasprit Bumrah as the best bowler in the world.

“He is the best bowler in all formats right now and leads the attack. Bumrah can keep up an amazing pace while shaping the new ball away. His tournament performance demonstrated his leadership abilities, taking about 15 wickets with remarkable economy. He is absolutely exceptional, and India is deserving of praise for their accomplishments,” added the former Aussie pacer.

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PCB Retain Muhammad Yusuf, Asad Shafiq In Revamped Selection Panel




File image of Muhammad Yusuf© X (Twitter)

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has retained former players Muhammad Yousuf and Asad Shafiq in the revamped selection committee which will pick the teams for the home Test series against Bangladesh next month. Yousuf and Shafiq were members of the previous selection committee which picked the T20 World Cup squad. The PCB sacked members Wahab Riaz and Abdul Razzaq after the team failed to go beyond the first round in the mega event but surprisingly has retained Yousuf and Shafiq.

Yousuf was also the batting coach of the Pakistan team while Wahab also served as senior team manager on the tours to Ireland, England and in the World Cup.

The new committee will also include the captains and head coaches of the red and white-ball teams. All the members including Yousuf and Shafiq will hold voting rights and have decision-making authority.

In a new development, the board has also nominated assistant team coach Azhar Mahmood and four of its board members/employees as the non-voting members of the committee.

These include the advisor to PCB Chairman Bilal Afzal, Manager of Analytics and Team Strategy Hassan Cheema, Director of High-Performance Nadeem Khan, and Director of International Cricket Usman Wahla.

The restructured committee will be responsible for selecting the squad for the two-Test series against Bangladesh, which is part of the World Test Championship (WTC) 2023-25 cycle.

Bangladesh will face Pakistan in two Tests, with matches scheduled in Rawalpindi from August 21-25 and in Karachi from August 30-September 3.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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