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

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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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Ishan Kishan chose not to play in the Test series against South Africa due to “mental fatigue” and constant traveling.

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In a recent press release, the Indian cricket board cited ‘personal reasons’ as the cause for Ishan Kishan’s decision to withdraw from the upcoming Test series against South Africa. Despite being a constant companion with the Indian team, Kishan found himself on the field only when regular players were unavailable. The constant travel and uncertainty surrounding his playing opportunities led to ‘mental fatigue,’ prompting the wicketkeeper-batsman to take a break from the Test series starting next Tuesday.

Sources from The Indian Express reveal that Kishan had approached the Indian team management during their South Africa tour last week, expressing the need for a break after a year of non-stop travel. The team management discussed his request with the selectors, who agreed to Kishan’s decision.

“He communicated to the team management about experiencing mental fatigue and expressed the desire for a cricket break. Everyone concurred,” confirmed a source to this paper.

In an earlier press release, the Indian board had cited ‘personal reasons’ for Kishan’s withdrawal from the upcoming Test series.

“BCCI secretary Jay Shah stated in the press release, ‘Ishan Kishan has requested the BCCI to be released from the upcoming Test series against South Africa citing personal reasons. The wicketkeeper has subsequently been withdrawn from the Test squad, and KS Bharat has been named as a replacement.'”

Kishan had been a part of every Indian squad since January 3, 2023, constantly on the road without substantial playing time. Despite playing the initial games in the 50-over World Cup and the T20I series against Australia, Kishan found himself on the sidelines during the South Africa tour, with the team management preferring Jitesh Sharma over him.

The hectic cricketing calendar, starting with the Sri Lanka series in January, followed by the home series against Australia, the IPL season with Mumbai Indians, and subsequent tours to England and the West Indies, contributed to Kishan’s decision to take a break. His involvement in the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka and a three-ODI series at home against Australia before the World Cup added to his exhaustive schedule.

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Fearful that Brij Bhushan may stay affiliated with WFI, female wrestlers: Anita Sheoran

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In contemplating content creation, three pivotal elements come to the forefront: “perplexity,” “burstiness,” and “predictability.” Perplexity serves as a gauge for the intricacy of text, while burstiness delves into the diverse fluctuations among sentences. Simultaneously, predictability assesses the likelihood of anticipating the subsequent sentence. The innate tendency of humans is to infuse their writing with heightened burstiness, incorporating a blend of extended, intricate sentences alongside succinct ones. Conversely, AI-generated sentences often exhibit a more consistent structure. Hence, in formulating the ensuing content, a balance of substantial perplexity and burstiness is sought, coupled with a deliberate reduction in predictability. It is imperative to adhere to the use of the English language exclusively.

Now, let’s reimagine the provided text:

Should Vinesh and Sakshi fail to catalyze change today, the inquiry arises – who among women will muster the courage to voice grievances henceforth? Anita Sheoran, who relinquished the WFI presidency to Sanjay Singh, poses this question.

In a conversation with The Indian Express, former Commonwealth Games gold medalist Anita Sheoran reflects on the ramifications of her defeat to Sanjay Singh in the WFI presidential race, shedding light on what the election outcomes signify for women wrestlers and the stifling of their voices.

You contested in the WFI elections. Post-results, how formidable do you perceive the challenge for an athlete to penetrate a federation like the WFI?

Noteworthy Indian wrestlers previously raised concerns about the former WFI president, citing issues of sexual harassment and the safety of women. Yet, even for these prominent athletes, victory seems elusive. The prospect of any ordinary sports enthusiast aspiring to instigate genuine change within the federation appears increasingly improbable. Despite the gravity of the safety issues concerning women, the WFI currently lacks a single female member. Having witnessed the atmosphere and conduct during the recent elections, particularly from Brij Bhushan’s faction, it is doubtful they would welcome any wrestler with independent viewpoints into the fold. Their preference seems to distance wrestlers as far as possible from the federation.

Each time I view Sakshi’s video, a sense of melancholy pervades. Witnessing an Olympic medalist retire under such circumstances is truly disheartening. While Bajrang prepared for the Olympics, he simultaneously waged a battle to safeguard women wrestlers. The same holds for Vinesh Phogat. They bravely advocated for women’s voices, yet what awaits them today? Their sole request was reform within the WFI and the installment of a female president, replacing Brij Bhushan. Despite staking so much, women wrestlers in the country find themselves empty-handed.

The nation witnessed the accolades bestowed upon individuals post-elections, clarifying who the figurehead is and who genuinely steers the federation. The WFI remains unaltered, devoid of any transformative initiatives. Who will be the harbinger of change? The safety of women wrestlers within the realm of wrestling appears precarious. Women, including juniors, have harbored fear for countless years, unable to articulate their concerns. Now, the voices of women wrestlers face renewed suppression. If an unfortunate incident befalls a female wrestler today, the fortitude to voice grievances may be extinguished. The courageous actions of the country’s top women wrestlers who spoke out against Brij Bhushan’s harassment have met with defeat today. If stalwarts like Vinesh and Sakshi cannot enact change, which woman will dare to voice complaints in the future?

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India vs. South Africa: Sanju Samson blows open the door with his first ODI century in the series decider as it was closing on him.

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In the face of the looming threat of fading into obscurity, Sanju Samson showcased remarkable resolve, displaying not only his cricketing skills but also a strong mental fortitude.

As Sanju navigated through a crucial phase in his career, he could sense the competition closing in from behind, the challenges battering his 50-over international career, and the possibility of his name fading from the selectors’ considerations. Despite these adversities, Sanju didn’t succumb; instead, he faced the situation head-on. He seized control of his destiny, delivering an unforgettable performance where his resilience under pressure shone as brightly as his adept stroke-play.

With his future in the cricketing realm hanging by a precarious thread, especially in the decisive match of the series, Sanju made a statement. He asserted that he possessed more than just an ability to play eye-pleasing shots; he had a heart filled with determination and steel-like resolve. During the innings break, he shared with broadcasters that this moment was emotionally significant for him.

Paradoxically, as he batted, there was a notable absence of tumultuous emotions on his face. Sanju played without the burden of pressure or baggage. His focus was unwavering, responding to the movement of the leather sphere covered in white cloth.

His eyes remained cold, his expression stern and serious. Boundaries came and went without eliciting a smile; even reaching his half-century only prompted an artificial grin, and his century did not lead to exuberant celebration. Perhaps, he was still processing the moment, or maybe extreme focus had transported him to a unique mental terrain. Regardless of the twists and turns in his career, that Thursday afternoon at Boland Park would forever bring a content smile to his face—a dream realized, though the setting was far from his hometown of Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram.

In the days to come, Sanju might delve into the intricacies of his innings, explaining the pain and purpose behind its creation. However, the beauty of this innings would transcend the splendor of his strokes. Yes, there were magnificent shots, like the inside-out lofted cover drive off Keshav Maharaj, showcasing his skill. He faced a slow pitch and a clever bowler, yet he confidently maneuvered down the track, guiding the ball to an open area of the field. There were pulled fours and a powerful six off Nandre Burger.

Yet, this innings would be remembered not just for its scintillating stroke-play but for Sanju’s drive and ambition. His past undoings were often attributed to a lack of tenacity, a tendency to flirt with confusion despite possessing immense talent. At Boland Park, nestled between the Groot-Berg River and the Paarl Mountain, Sanju realized that dealing with fire required ice. The most striking feature of his innings was the clarity of his mind, the absence of confusion, and his situational awareness, demonstrating timely responses. It seemed as if Sanju was running away from his own shadow.

During his 167-minute stay, he made hardly a wrong move. There were no edges, no strokes born out of frustration. Yet, the lurking threat of implosion seemed ever-present. The start was brisk, and when he push-drove Beuran Hendricks for his third boundary, he reached 26 off 33 balls—a steady pace following the openers’ brisk start of 35 runs in five overs.

However, the real challenge awaited. The ball lost its shine, the pitch slowed down, and batting became an arduous task. KL Rahul struggled for 21 off 35 balls, and Tilak Varma managed only seven runs from his first 30 balls. The run rate plummeted, and dot balls accumulated like shoppers in Chandni Chowk on Diwali eve.

Yet, Sanju persevered. Moving from 38 to 64 (26 runs), he consumed 44 balls, hitting just one four during this period. The pitch was so sluggish that even part-time off-spinner Aiden Markram was approached cautiously.

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