5 benefits if Supreme Court allows Sourav Ganguly to continue for long

CT Contributor Updated: 18 November, 2019, 10:52 AM IST


Last month, former Indian cricket team captain Sourav Ganguly was formally elected unopposed as the new Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president. Ganguly formally took over as the new boss at the apex body's Annual General Meeting (AGM).

Ganguly is in line to serve as president for 9 months as the "Cooling Off" period clause in the new BCCI constitution makes it mandatory for board officials to step down after 6 years in office. That was on the recommendations of the Justice Lodha Committee.

There have been calls from many corners including former cricketer Gautam Gambhir of wanting the officials to make a change in order to extend Ganguly's stay.

Here are five benefits Indian cricket will have if Ganguly's tenure is increased.

Dada can bring inclusive growth

Like Gambhir said, Ganguly can contribute in this aspect. Ganguly is one of the rare personalities who is a true leader and he excels at helping things grow around him. He has a clear mind and a vision to help Indian cricket for the long run.

Domestic cricketers could benefit

Another strong factor is that the domestic cricketers will benefit at large. He has already planned in introducing a contract system for First-Class cricketers. Also, this will help the cricketers at large as they will get a secured payment structure. Going forward, more facilities could be brought to players by Dada.

Better vision for Test cricket

Ganguly can bring the zeal and interest of fans back to Test cricket. With the ICC Test Championship on, Dada can better the India's Test cricket sphere. He has already introduced the Day-Night Test for Team India and this could just be the start.

Experience factor immense

Dada is highly experienced and has been associated with CAB earlier. He knows the demands of the job and he will continue to bring in a strong culture. Under his leadership, Indian cricket will move along well.

Getting foreigners to play Ranji

When you look at other nations especially County Cricket in England, one gets to see foreign players be involved in domestic cricket. With Dada, one might see several foreign players feature in India's domestic cricket to bring in more competition. It will also benefit one and all.

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News Cricket

Furious Umesh Yadav ready to play in England

Staff Writer Updated: 19 January, 2020, 8:38 PM IST


Umesh Yadav who has been exceptional in Test cricket is not happy with the way he has been ignored in shorter formats. The Indian pacer lamented the lack of playing time in international cricket. He is thinking of playing in the English county circuit.

“Workload management is a balance that you strike when you are constantly playing matches. In my case, it’s been the opposite. I have played lesser and lesser in the past two years (2018 and 2019). So there hasn’t even been optimum workload for me,” Umesh said.

The man who has 142 wickets from 45 Tests feels he needs to play more in order to stay in rhythm.

“I am 31 years old and the next four to five years are very important. If you look at my record. I played four Tests last year (2019) and before that another four in 2018. In the white ball, I played only one game last year.

“At this age, the more I bowl, the better I will get. That’s why I am playing five first-class (one vs Saurashtra after this game) to have some more workload,” he said

“So in a World T20 year, after New Zealand tour, I have only IPL left and then no cricket. If I am not selected for white-ball cricket, I have precious little to do then,” he added.

He would not mind playing county cricket this year. “The concern about county cricket is that if they have a professional playing for them, they would hand over the ball to him and expect that bowler to send down maximum overs.”

News Cricket

KL Rahul is a better wicketkeeper than Rahul Dravid - Aakash Chopra

Staff Writer Updated: 19 January, 2020, 8:36 PM IST


The Indian opening batsman has kept wickets in the ongoing series against Australia. He was asked to do the wicketkeeping duties after Rishabh Pant was hit on the helmet in the first ODI. KL Rahul has been exceptional behind the stumps.

Former cricketer Aakash Chopra feels KL Rahul is a better wicketkeeper than Rahul Dravid. However, he has against the idea of asking Rahul to keep the wickets in most of the matches.

“He is a better keeper than what Dravid was but I would not want him to keep on a regular basis. Keeping takes a toll. He can’t be keeping for 50 overs and then batting higher up the order,” Chopra said as quoted by India Today ahead of the series decider on Sunday.

“If somebody who is that good (with the bat) and if he can do another job, it doesn’t mean that he should keep as well. Rahul is too precious a talent for me to slot in as a keeper-batsman. That way, instead of managing his workload, you are increasing his workload. Once in a while, if he has to keep for the team balance it is okay but in the long run, you have to allow him to score 10000 runs and that won’t happen if he is being asked to keep,” added Chopra.

News Cricket

Rohit Sharma becomes the third-fastest to 9,000 runs in one-day internationals

Staff Writer Updated: 19 January, 2020, 8:33 PM IST


Rohit Sharma scripted another record in the third ODI between India and Australia. The right-handed batsman became the third-fastest to 9000 ODI runs in Bengaluru. He was in need of four runs before the third match of the series to surpass Sourav Ganguly and become the 2nd fastest Indian to reach the milestone.

While Rohit took just 217 innings to amass 9000 ODI runs, Sourav Ganguly completed this landmark in 228 innings. He is the seventh Indian batsman after Mohammad Azharuddin, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli to enter this elite club.

The record for the fastest to 9000 ODI runs is with Virat Kohli, who reached the milestone in 194 innings. AB de Villiers holds the second spot who achieved the feat in 205 innings.

Opinion Cricket

What KL Rahul's versatility means for Team India in limited-overs cricket?

CT Contributor Updated: 18 January, 2020, 11:04 PM IST


KL Rahul has been the talk of the town as far Indian cricket is concerned for a while now. The injury to Shikhar Dhawan ahead of the Bangladesh series back in November opened the floodgates for Rahul to show his credentials. Since then, the player has been unstoppable and has scored heavily in both T20Is and ODIs.

Rahul amassed four half-centuries in nine T20I matches, starting against Bangladesh. And in ODIs, he amassed a ton and two half-centuries against West Indies and Australia respectively. Dhawan returned to the fold for India in the T20Is against Sri Lanka and opened with Rahul. And both the batsmen scored crucial runs. In the ODIs against Australia, Rohit Sharma returned and the talk of the town was will India leave out Dhawan or play all these three opening players.

The latter happened. Dhawan, who has been India's consistent force in ODIs of late, was handed the chance to open alongside Rohit. The southpaw scored 74 and 96 in the first two ODIs to show his mettle. Rahul batted at number three in the opener and then came in at number five in the second match. He got scores of 47 and 80 to show his versatility in both these positions.

Rahul's form at the moment makes him inseparable. He deserves a place in the side. However, with Dhawan and Rohit being principle openers, Rahul will now need to come in the middle order. Number five is what looks feasible for him. After the 80-run knock, Rahul showed he can be a threat in that position. He is ready to bat anywhere and his natural instincts can help him immensely. That's a major plus for Team India.

Also, another factor of Rahul is his keeping. With Rishabh Pant out with a concussion, Rahul fitted in well at number five. He did reasonably well behind the stumps. India have an option here. If the side prefers Rahul as the keeper, for now, it opens up things. In that manner, Dhawan can play atop, Iyer can continue at number four. And India can go in with both all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja at number six and seven respectively.

India will have an option of six bowling options, besides adding solidity. Also, Pant has been highly inconsistent and this can help Rahul fight for the number one choice as a keeper.

News Cricket

Ashwin gives a hilarious reply to a fan asking for his signed Delhi Capitals jersey

Garima Kotroo Updated: 18 January, 2020, 11:01 PM IST


Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been quite active on the social media platforms in recent times. Even the fans are enjoying the interaction with the Chennai-born cricketer on Twitter.

Ashwin recently took to his official Twitter handle to ask Cheteshwar Pujara about the par score at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot during the second ODI between India and Australia.

Before Pujara could reply to the Tamil Nadu veteran, a fan chipped in and asked Ashwin, “How many retweets for a signed @DelhiCapitals jersey this IPL??!!”

At this, Ashwin gave a hilarious answer to the user as he wrote, “Once I get hold of my jersey, I will let u know.” However, the fan was also very quick to respond and he said that he will pick up the jersey personally and save the courier charges for Ashwin.

“Ok deal then. Pls don't forget! I'll follow up of course and fly down from Dubai to meet you & take it personally. Will save you the courier charges,” he wrote.

“Ashwin had represented Kings XI Punjab in the last two seasons of the Indian Premier League but failed to make a mark as the franchise couldn’t qualify for the play-offs under his captaincy.

News Cricket

KL Rahul knocking on the doors of the Indian Test team

Abhishek Singh Updated: 18 January, 2020, 10:57 PM IST


The Test and ODI squad for the New Zealand tour will be announced on Sunday. KL Rahul’s sensational form for the Men in Blue in white-ball cricket has increased the headache of the Indian selectors to accommodate him in the Test squad.

Rahul lost his spot in India’s Test squad following a torrid tour of Australia. He last played a Test for India against West Indies in Kingston where he scored a dismal 25 in two innings.

Young speedster Navdeep Saini along with Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill are also knocking on the doors of the Indian Test team. While both Shubhman and Prithvi are on the New Zealand tour with India A, and it is likely that their performances will be monitored. Navdeep Saini, however, makes a strong case of himself in the seeming conditions of the Kiwi nation.

Meanwhile, KL Rahul has impressed all with his batting skills in the white-ball format. Also playing in the domestic cricket, he has struck gold with the bat. Now, it will become a tough choice for selectors on whether they would persist with Shaw and Gill or would they give an inform Rahul a chance to prove himself in Tests as well.

India’s tour of New Zealand starts from January 24 with the Men in Blue scheduled to play five T20I, three ODIs, and two Tests.

News Cricket

Karun Nair ties the knot with long-time girlfriend Sanaya Tankariwala

Garima Kotroo Updated: 18 January, 2020, 4:57 PM IST


Indian batsman Karun Nair recently tied the knot with his long-time girlfriend and fiance Sanaya Tankariwala in Udaipur. The 28-year-old right-hander proposed her for marriage last year during their vacations. He had shared a heartfelt video of his proposal where he was bending on his knee to ask for Sanaya’s hand.

Notably, the Jharkhand fast bowler Varun Aaron was one of the guests who attended Nair and Shanaya’s wedding on Thursday.

Varun took to his official Instagram account to post an adorable picture with the couple and captioned it, “To a lifetime of love and happiness !!???????? @sanayatankariwala @karun_6.”

Even the Karnataka Ranji Team took to their Twitter handle to congratulate the newly-wed couple, “Wishing a very Happy Married Life to Karun Nair (@Karun126) and Sanaya Tankariwala (@SanayaT10).”

As far as cricket is concerned, Nair has been a force to reckon with in the domestic circuit. He has accumulated 5446 runs at an average of 49.50.

However, he didn’t get enough chances to prove himself in international cricket.

Nair became the second Indian batsman to score a triple-century in the Test cricket during his debut game against England in November 2016.

While speaking about his triple-ton back in 2018, the cricketer had said, “It’s been two years already and I think it’s time we moved on. The past is gone and we have to look ahead to what’s ahead; I don’t think it should be a disadvantage at all. It can only be an advantage, people know what I can do now, I don’t need to prove it to myself or to anyone that I can score runs at the international level because I have done it before.

News Cricket

His best innings so far: Virat Kohli on KL Rahul’s heroics in second ODI

Abhishek Singh Updated: 18 January, 2020, 4:29 PM IST


India captain Virat Kohli has said that KL Rahul's innings in the second ODI against Australia was his best in international cricket. He was impressed with KL Rahul who batted below his usual position in the batting order.

"It's important to not leave someone like KL out. You saw how he batted today. This is probably the best he's played at the international level. The knock showed maturity and class, and we know exactly what we're doing in the dressing room," Kohli said in the post-match presentation ceremony.

Coming in at No. 5, Rahul scored a brilliant 80 off 52 balls to give India a much-needed push in the final 10 overs that saw the home team post an imposing 340/6 in 50 overs.

While Rahul came to bat at number 5, Kohli reverted to his usual No. 3 position after demoting himself to No. 4 in the first ODI, which India lost by 10 wickets. Kohli hit 78 off 76 deliveries and shared a 103-run stand with Shikhar Dhawan, before adding 78 runs with Rahul.

Captain Kohli was also impressed with Rahul’s wicket-keeping.

"When you are playing well, it seeps through into your other skills as well. KL keeping like that certainly gives us another option to think about. He is becoming a multi-dimensional player, and it's really great when players step up like this," said Kohli.

India leveled the three-match series with a 36-run win in Rajkot and the decisive final ODI will be played at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday.

News Cricket

Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne are like long-lost brothers – Aaron Finch

Staff Writer Updated: 18 January, 2020, 4:16 PM IST


Australia skipper Aaron Finch has spoken about the chemistry between Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, who shared a 96-run partnership for the third wicket in the second ODI against India. The visitors lost the game by 36 runs in the end. While Steve Smith scored a well compiled 98 runs, Marnus Labuschagne accumulated 46 runs.

At the post-match presentation ceremony, Finch was asked about the partnership between Smith and Labuschagne.

“Smith and Labuschagne, they look like long-lost brothers, don’t they?” he asked. In reply, Finch said: “They certainly are (long-lost brothers). They love batting together, they spend every minute of the day together. I think the only time they don’t spend with each other is when they sleep.”

News Cricket

I watched the videos of AB, Smith and Williamson to learn how to bat at different positions - Rahul

Garima Kotroo Updated: 18 January, 2020, 3:59 PM IST


KL Rahul’s heroics with the bat and gloves drove the Men in Blue towards a 36-run win against Australia in the second ODI at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Friday. The 27-year-old right-handed batsman came at the number five slot in Rajkot and he stunned the opponent bowlers with his amazing shots. He smashed 80 runs off 52 deliveries before losing his wicket.

Not only this, Rahul proved his brilliance behind the stumps as he quickly grabbed the ball and removed the bails to dismiss the Australian skipper Aaron Finch.

Speaking about his game at No. 5 position, Rahul said, “I watched the videos of players like AB de Villiers, Steve Smith, and Kane Williamson. The only thing is I adjusted my game to it. My game reading has also become much better.”

When he was asked about the pressure of batting at different positions in the international arena, Rahul replied, “I get to learn so much about batting as art when I get to bat at different positions, new ways to counter the bowlers, new ways to adjust to the situations. I don't look at it is as pressure, just enjoy it. I am more than willing to bat at any position for the team. It is a team game and anybody would do it for the team.”

News Cricket

KL Rahul has ability and composure like Dhoni and Yuvraj: Sehwag

Abhishek Singh Updated: 18 January, 2020, 1:09 PM IST


Virender Sehwag has said KL Rahul has the calm and composer like that of MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh and could well fit into the role of a finisher, which has been left vacant since the World Cup last year.

Sehwag while speaking at a post-match show on Cricbuzz said, “I think KL Rahul is batting in a good form. When Dhoni and Yuvraj batted in slog overs, they always set up targets for every over. Scoring nine runs if they hit a four or 11 if they hit a six, they negated the risk this way. KL Rahul is getting into that groove as well. I can safely say, if he continues to work on his batting, he can become a good finisher like Dhoni and Yuvraj”.

Former Indian cricketer, Mohammad Kaif, who was also present on the show, said that Rahul has learned to adjust and play at any position. “It’s easier going up from down in the batting position. You have many examples, be it Sehwag, Sachin or Rohit Sharma, all of them batted down the order at the start of their career, but moved up gradually. In the case of Rahul, he has come down the order and it takes courage and consistency to prove yourself at a time when your position keeps changing in the batting order”.

Rahul played a crucial role in India’s 36-run win over Australia on Friday. Scoring 80 runs off just 52 deliveries, he gave team India the required momentum. The Karnataka batsman then kept wickets with the utmost composure, pulling off a quick stumping, making himself a deserving candidate for the Man of the Match award, which he was presented with after the end of the match.

News Cricket

Apna time aaega - Irfan posts a motivational message for Sanju Samson after the T20I snub

Garima Kotroo Updated: 18 January, 2020, 1:08 PM IST


The young wicketkeeper-batsman from Kerala, Sanju Samson is currently making the headlines for his cryptic tweet on the account after getting dropped from the T20I squad for the upcoming five-match series against New Zealand. The 25-year-old right-hander posted a comma on his official Twitter handle to show his disappointment on the team selection. This tweet left the cricket fans in a split and went viral in no time.

Meanwhile, the former Indian all-rounder Irfan Pathan came forward to support the youngster after his exclusion from the squad. He wrote, “Keep at it. Apna time aaega”.

Irfan also hailed the impressive innings of Dhawan during the second ODI against Australia at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot.

“If situation pushes you towards the wall what do you do???? Score 3 half-centuries and become @SDhawan25 #wellplayed #INDvsAUS.”

The 34-year-old Indian opener played an important knock of 96 runs off 90 balls against the visitors and helped his side to clinch the game by 36 runs. After their humiliating 10-wicket defeat in the series opener, Virat Kohli and the team finally bounced back against Aaron Finch's troops.

The Men in Blue have now leveled the ongoing series against Aussies by 1-1 and will play the series-decider at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on January 19.

Milestones Cricket

4 instances where 600-plus runs were scored in an ODI in India without a hundred

Renin Wilben Albert Updated: 18 January, 2020, 12:39 PM IST


India overcame a tough challenge from Australia in the second one-dayer at Rajkot to square the three-match series 1-1. Batting first, India posted an impressive 340 for 6 on the board courtesy half-centuries from Shikhar Dhawan, skipper Virat Kohli and KL Rahul. While Dhawan was dismissed for 96 from 90, Kohli contributed 78 from 76, and Rahul blazed his way to 80 from 52 balls.

In response, Australia finished on 304 as Steve Smith contributed a wonderful 98 from 102 deliveries. No other Aussie batsman could cross the fifty mark though. Marnus Labuschagne was the next highest scorer with 46 from 47 balls. The Rajkot ODI saw a combined total of 644 runs being scored. This was one of the rare instances of 600-plus runs being scored in an ODI in India without an individual century. Here’s a look at three other times where over 600 runs were registered in one-day international without any batsman scoring a hundred.

643 runs -- Asia v Africa, Afro-Asia Cup 2nd ODI (Chennai 2007)

In the second match of the Afro-Asia Cup played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on June 9, 2007, a match aggregate of 643 runs was registered. Asia XI, after winning the toss and electing to bat first, posted an imposing 337 for 7 on the board. Sourav Ganguly was the top-scorer for Asia XI, with a fluent 88 from 112 balls. At the top, Virender Sehwag blasted 52 from 38 balls while Mohammad Yousuf contributed 51 from 44 towards the end. Yuvraj Singh too played a splendid cameo, making an unbeaten 30 from 13 balls.

In reply, Africa XI were bowled out for 306. Mark Boucher was the top run-scorer for them with 73 from 71 balls. Batting at number three, Boeta Dippenaar contributed 67 from 72 deliveries. Opener Vusi Sibanda and Shaun Pollock hit 35 each, but Africa XI fell 31 runs short of the target. For Asia XI, Dilhara Fernando was the standout performer with 4 for 36.

641 runs -- India vs England, 1st ODI (Rajkot 2013)

In the first ODI of the five-match series between India and England, played at Rajkot on January 11, 2013, a total of 641 runs were scored without a batsman from either side hitting a hundred. Electing to bat first after winning the toss, visitors England put up a highly challenging 325 for 4 on the board. Opener and captain Alastair Cook scored 75 from 83 while Ian Bell made 85 from 96. The impressive contributions continued as Kevin Pietersen hit 44 from 45, Eoin Morgan 41 from 38 before Samit Patel gave the finishing touches to the innings with a blazing 44 not out from 20.

India were competitive in response, but eventually ran out of steam, losing the contest by nine runs. Openers Ajinkya Rahane (47 from 57) and Gautam Gambhir (52 from 52) added 96 for the opening wicket. Yuvraj Singh contributed 61 from 54 and Suresh Raina 50 from 49. However, England kept chipping away at the wickets, and eventually ended up on top. Off-spinner James Tredwell was named man of the match for picking up 4 for 44 and stalling India’s chase.

637 runs -- India vs England, 3rd ODI (Kolkata 2017)

England defeated India by five runs in a high-scoring encounter at Eden Gardens on January 22, 2017. The teams combined to put up 637 runs on the board, yet again with no batsman from either side scoring a hundred. England batted first and put up 321 for 8 on the board. Jason Roy hit 65 from 56 while Jonny Bairstow contributed 56 from 64. Towards the end, all-rounder Ben Stokes blazed his way to an unbeaten 57 from 39 balls while Chris Woakes also impressed with 34 from just 19.

In India’s chase, Kedar Jadhav made a belligerent 90 from 75 balls while skipper Virat Kohli and all-rounder Hardik Pandya contributed 55 and 56 respectively. However, India fell tantalizingly close to the target, finishing on 316 for 9. Stokes sent back both Kohli and Pandya to finish with 3 for 63 and was adjudged man of the match for his all-round brilliance.

Feature Cricket

Nadkarni – Gutsy with the bat, parsimonious with the ball

Partab Ramchand Updated: 18 January, 2020, 12:37 PM IST


The objective of any cricketer is to win the match but if a situation arises when the team is facing defeat and a draw is the best possible option that’s when you need someone like Rameschandra Gangaram Nadkarni. It was Indian cricket’s good fortune that during their formative years in the fifties and sixties when they faced one setback after another they could rely on Nadkarni, gutsy with the bat and parsimonious with the ball to bail them out.

With all his courageous deeds with the bat Nadkarni who passed away on Friday will be remembered for his niggardly left-arm spin bowling. Taking runs off him was like squeezing the proverbial water out of the stone. Hour after hour, over after over he kept wheeling them down on the same good length spot and the batsman just had no option but to play the ball dead at his feet. When the batsmen tried to take liberties he found the ball hitting the middle of the middle stump. The batsman had to be the epitome of patience in negotiating Nadkarni who was accuracy personified. He did not turn the ball much and the joke among his Indian teammates was that he fooled the batsman by forcing him to think that he was turning the ball. The fact remains that Nadkarni is not remembered for being a big turner of the ball; he is remembered chiefly for his ability to bottle up one end as few bowlers have done in the history of cricket. Little wonder then that he is second among the most economical bowlers in Test history (1.67) among those with 75 wickets or more just behind South Africa’s Trevor Goddard (1.64).

But then Nadkarni also notched up four five-wicket hauls and a ten-wicket haul during his 41-Test career that stretched from 1955 to 1968 and brought him 1414 runs at an average of 25.70 and 88 wickets at fractionally over 29 apiece. The feat for which he is most famous of course is his world record 21 successive maidens he sent down during the Test against England at Madras in January 1964. He ended the innings with the mind-boggling figures of 32-27-5-0.

A more than useful left-handed batsman down the order Nadkarni scored one hundred and seven half-centuries. His lone hundred came in a match-saving act against England at Kanpur in February 1964. India were following on 293 runs behind and Nadkarni who had remained unbeaten with 52 in the first innings was promoted to No 3 the second time around and responded with an unbeaten 122 in seven hours which enabled India to save the match.

At the first-class level Nadkarni was among the giants running up a record of 8880 runs at an average of 40 with the highest score of 283 not out coupled with 500 wickets at 21 apiece. He represented Maharashtra and Mumbai during a long first-class career. In later years he was a popular manager of Indian teams and served as national selection committee chairman in 1987-88.

News Cricket

No Comments: Ganguly on Dhoni’s omission from the contract list

Abhishek Singh Updated: 18 January, 2020, 12:36 PM IST


BCCI president Sourav Ganguly refused to comment on MS Dhoni's omission from the annual central contract list. The World Cup-winning captain was left out of the list for not playing international cricket since the last edition of the World Cup in England and Wales.

"I can't comment on this," Ganguly said in his straightforward response on Dhoni's omission from the BCCI's annual player retainers for 2019-20.

The possibility of Dhoni making a comeback cannot be ruled out as India’s coach Ravi Shastri has already said that the former captain’s chances of playing the T20 world cup would depend upon his IPL performance.

The iconic former captain has been out of action since India's World Cup semifinal loss to New Zealand in July last year. He started training with his state team Jharkhand from Thursday with an eye on the upcoming edition of IPL.

Ganguly, however, spoke on the merger of the Kolkata's iconic club Mohun Bagan with ATK and hailed it as the "way forward".

"Game has professionalized. This is the right way forward. Many big clubs like Manchester have also done this. Only time will tell (about the success). This is the way forward," Ganguly said.

The historic Indian football club Mohun Bagan was merged into the newbie Amar Tomar Kolkata, a side that represents the city of joy in the Indian Super League, one of the two top tier football leagues in the country.