France detains soccer great Platini in 2022 World Cup probe

AP Updated: 19 June, 2019, 10:38 AM IST

HIGHLIGHTS

French police investigating whether corruption played a role in the stunning decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar took 1980s soccer superstar and former top executive Michel Platini into custody Tuesday for questioning.

Platini's representatives denied any wrongdoing on his part, saying he is "absolutely confident in the future" and has "strictly nothing to reproach himself for."

Also questioned Tuesday were two one-time associates of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, adding a layer of political intrigue to the investigation of the hugely controversial decision to hold soccer's showcase tournament in a desert country so scorching hot in June and July that the matches will be played instead in November and December.

As head of European soccer's governing body UEFA, Platini was the continent's top representative on the FIFA committee that picked Qatar in 2010.

The closed-door, secret-ballot vote baffled many at the time, not least because the Persian Gulf nation has no soccer pedigree to speak of. But gas-rich Qatar is pouring billions into the world's most popular sport and has the means to finance new stadiums.

Platini, 63, was taken into custody after being summoned to a French police anti-corruption and financial crimes office outside Paris, a judicial official told The Associated Press, confirming a report by online publication Mediapart. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

French authorities did not announce any charges against the soccer legend or say exactly what he was being asked. He can be held for questioning for up to 48 hours, after which he can be either released or formally charged.

It was the latest turn in a string of scandals in recent years that have brought down dozens of soccer officials from FIFA and other organizations over such offenses as vote-buying, kickbacks and bribery.

French prosecutors are known to be investigating an array of winning bids for major sports events, including the 2018 World Cup, awarded to Russia, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and track and field world championships.

Qatar beat the long-favored United States 14-8 when FIFA selected the host country for the 2022 World Cup.

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who presided over the vote, has accused Platini of backing out of a secret "gentleman's agreement" to award the tournament to the United States after meeting with Sarkozy, France's president at the time.

Platini's representatives said he was taken into custody only for "technical reasons." His lawyer, William Bourdon, explained that police wanted to ensure that Platini and other witnesses couldn't confer with each other about their accounts.

Also detained Tuesday was Sophie Dion, a former sports adviser in Sarkozy's administration, the judicial official said. She was released late in the evening. Claude Gueant, former secretary general of the Elysee presidential palace under Sarkozy, was questioned as a witness and not detained. French prosecutors previously questioned Blatter.

Ahead of the FIFA vote, Sarkozy hosted a meeting in November 2010 that brought Platini together with Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, then the crown prince of Qatar and now its ruling emir. Al-Thani also owns the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, and Sarkozy frequently attends its games.

Platini has long insisted that the meeting did not influence his vote for Qatar less than two weeks later.

"Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew what would be good," he told the AP in 2015. But in the same interview, he also said that he "might have told" American officials earlier that he was going to vote for the United States' bid.

Blatter quoted Platini as saying ahead of the vote: "I am no longer in your picture because I have been told by the head of state that we should consider the situation of France."

FIFA had no comment on Platini's detention and said it has made a "full commitment to cooperating with the authorities."

As a player, Platini was one of the best ever, a creative midfielder who lit up the pitch for club and country. He helped France reach the World Cup semifinals in 1982 and 1986 and led his national team to the 1984 European Championship title.

He also played club soccer for Nancy and Saint-Etienne before switching to Italian club Juventus. He won three straight Ballon d'Or titles as the best player in Europe while playing for Juventus from 1983 to 1985.

Both Platini and Blatter were toppled from their positions at the top of soccer in 2015. Platini was banned by FIFA for financial misconduct in connection with a $2 million payment authorized by Blatter — a suspension set to expire in October.

Get Daily Updates From CricToday

Subscribe and get the latest Sports News delivered to your inbox.

Email is required. Invalid email address.
News Cricket

Having them 39 runs behind and four down is a good position – Trent Boult

AP Updated: 23 February, 2020, 4:02 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

New Zealand edged closer to an unexpected victory over top-ranked India in the ICC Test Championship when it drove home the advantage of 183-run first-innings lead on the third day of the first test.

India has won its first seven matches in the championship but its unbeaten record hangs in the balance after it ended the day at 144-4, still 39 runs behind New Zealand with only six-second innings wickets in hand.

Ajinkya Rahane was 25 and Hanuma Vihari 15 at stumps which were drawn unusually late at 7.30 pm local time Sunday with long shadows draped across the Basin Reserve. But the strength of India's batting was in the pavilion as it attempts to overcome a substantial first-innings deficit.

New Zealand gained the upper hand when it replied with 348 to India's first innings of 165. It began the day only 51 runs ahead at 216-5 but solidified its position when its last three wickets produced 123 runs.

Colin de Grandhomme (43) and Kyle Jamieson (44) put on 71 for the eighth wicket, then Trent Boult smashed 38 at No. 11 to substantially increase New Zealand's lead.

Boult then contributed with the ball, finishing with 3-27 as he dismissed Prithvi Shaw (14), Cheteshwar Pujar (11) and captain Virat Kohli (19) to strengthen New Zealand's position.

"Having them 39 runs behind and four down is a good position," Boult said. "I think all in all a good day and some good cricket played.

"I managed to get a few runs to extend the lead a little bit and it was nice to contribute a bit with the ball. It's turning into a very good wicket and if we can remain very aggressive with the ball, look to be as intimidating as we can and take a couple more wickets then who knows what's possible."

India struggled throughout the day Sunday to cope with unaccustomed conditions. Heavy overnight rain made the playing field damp at the start of the day and the Indian players froze in a cold southerly breeze.

When the sun came out and the day warmed, the pitch hardened and altered in character and the Indian players struggled to cope with the constant changes the conditions demanded.

Opener Mayank Argawal posted his fourth half-century in tests in an effort to anchor the India innings but he was out for 58 and while others batted for long periods, they did little to reduce the deficit.

Cheteshwar Pujara faced 81 balls for 11 runs and even Kohli labored for 43 deliveries for his 19 before he was caught by wicketkeeper B.J. Watling off Boult.

Earlier, Colin de Grandhomme and Kyle Jamieson put on 71 for the eighth wicket and Boult hit 38 from 24 balls as New Zealand's tail wagged to expand its first-innings lead.

New Zealand resumed Sunday at 216-5, just 51 runs ahead and lost wicketkeeper B.J. Watling (14) to the first ball of the day. Tim Southee (6) was out soon after as New Zealand, at 225-7, risked falling short of the lead it wanted after bowling out India for 165.

De Grandhomme made 43 and Jamieson 44 to swing the match back in New Zealand's favor. Jamieson continued a dream debut after taking 4-39 in India's first innings.

Boult blasted 38 from 24 balls at No. 11 to swell New Zealand's lead and increase the pressure on India when it came to batting.

"I think we talk in the lower order and anything we can contribute is always handy," Boult said. “We do take pride in adding to the total and that was nice to do so today.”

News Cricket

Pakistan to give Darren Sammy honorary citizenship

AP Updated: 23 February, 2020, 4:01 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Pakistan is making former West Indies captain Darren Sammy an honorary citizen for his role in restoring international cricket to the country.

Pakistan will also give Sammy its highest civilian award - Nishan-e-Pakistan - the Pakistan Cricket Board tweeted Saturday.

Sammy will be honored by Pakistan President Arif Alvi in a ceremony on March 23, a national holiday known as Pakistan Day.

Sammy is seen as having played a major role as a foreign player in helping the PCB bring international cricket back to Pakistan, following an attack by gunmen on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009.

Sammy has been leading Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League since the domestic Twenty20 tournament began in 2016.

Peshawar won the second edition of the PSL in Lahore in 2017. It was the first time that the PCB had organized a PSL game in Pakistan after the first edition and all the second edition — except the final — were played in the United Arab Emirates.

Sammy is currently leading Peshawar in the fifth edition of the PSL. The tournament is being played in its entirety for the first time in Pakistan.

News Cricket

Ishant Sharma doesn’t get the respect he deserves - Scott Styris

Garima Kotroo Updated: 23 February, 2020, 3:59 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

The former New Zealand all-rounder Scott Styris has praised the Indian pacer Ishant Sharma for his heroics against the Kiwis. The 31-year-old experienced bowler, who sustained an ankle injury during a Ranji Trophy game last month, kept India in the competition by taking five crucial wickets against the hosts.

While lauding the efforts of Ishant Sharma for his side, Styris said that he is a terrific performer who has the ability to bowl consistently. He also stated that the lanky pacer doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

“He perhaps doesn’t get the respect he deserves. Those are phenomenal numbers. He is a terrific performer. His ability to consistently bowl in one area is great. He is right in the face of the batsmen and you can see the rewards are slowly coming.”

Earlier, Ishant was not feeling good during the game.

“I am not happy because I have not slept for two days and I was struggling a lot today (with my body). The way I would have liked to bowl, it did not happen. They asked me to play and I played. Anything, for the team.”

Opinion Cricket

Why Donald Trump and Why Motera?

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 23 February, 2020, 3:57 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

The hullabaloo over the state visit of American President Donald Trump has found uncommon quarters. The question is not so much about hosting the President of the United States as much as it is about the location and occasion.

One of the important state visits is awaited over the weekend. As part of that honor, Trump has been invited by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate the newly built, 100,000 capacity Motera cricket stadium in Ahmedabad.

While it is obvious that Modi who hails from Gujarat would want to promote his own state and that too with a huge Gujarati diaspora settled in the USA, what makes this somewhat baffling is why an American President would be invited to inaugurate a renovated cricket stadium when cricket is not a popular sport and their team largely features Indian ex-pats.

While it would seem that Modi's show of popularity in Houston was only touted in India and not even mentioned by Trump amongst the many foreign dignitaries he met in later public conferences, Modi wants to show size matters.

While Trump claims millions of people showing up has been promised by Modi, the stadium has been adapted to host 100,000 spectators. Even the stadium renovation was rushed in time for Trump's visit.

It would appear that the cricket stadium's unveiling of a first look is being used for purposes other than cricket and that too by political heads of state who do not really follow the game anyway.

Even the remote idea that Trump's presence at a cricket stadium will raise the profile of the sport abroad is a far-fetched idea if ever there was one.

It would have been better and more pertinent had Modi invited illustrious cricketers and made a big show about the revamped stadium in his state rather than invited a dignitary who does not even plausibly know much about the game's existence let alone understand the game or the location.

Feature Cricket

IPL 2020: 5 Mumbai Indians batsmen to watch out for

Garima Kotroo Updated: 23 February, 2020, 3:53 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Mumbai Indians will kick-start the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League as defending champions. Rohit Sharma-led team successfully lifted the prestigious IPL title fourth time in the nerve-wracking finale of IPL 2019 against Chennai Super Kings. In the 13th edition also, they are looking forward to maintaining their dominance in the league. MI have a pretty good set of batsmen who can add strength to the squad for the next season. Let’s take a look at five brilliant batsmen who can win matches for Mumbai Indian in IPL 2020:

Rohit Sharma

When it comes to the Indian Premier League, Rohit Sharma is not just a name, he is a brand for Mumbai Indians supporters across the globe. With his power-hitting skills and brilliant leadership qualities, Mumbai outfit has managed to lift the prestigious IPL trophy four times (in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019). Rohit is one of those rare cricketers who has contributed a lot to the success of IPL. The Hitman is the most important cog in MI’s wheel who guided his side to the fifth IPL finale that too against the arch-rivals Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Rohit has scored 4898 runs in 188 IPL games at an average of 31.60 and a strike rate of 130.82 so far.

Hardik Pandya

In the upcoming edition of IPL, all eyes will be on the top all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who is going to make a comeback on the field after a long gap. Pandya had a dream run for Mumbai in IPL 2019 as he played exceptionally well with the bat and ball. His role was instrumental in Mumbai Indians' title win in the grand finale last year. If we take Pandya’s batting performance into account, he smashed 402 runs in 16 games last year. On the other hand, in the bowling department, he picked up 14 wickets at an economy rate of 9.17. The 26-year-old stylish cricketer is now sweating hard to replicate his last year’s form in the upcoming edition after painful back surgery.

Quinton de Kock

South African batsman Quinton de Kock, who opened the batting line-up with Rohit Sharma in the 12th edition of IPL, had a sensational stint with the four-time winners so far. He accumulated 529 runs at an average of 35.26 and a strike rate of 131.28 last year. Not only this, he was equally good behind the stumps. The dashing cricketer has been in a red-hot form for his national side in the last couple of years. He was rewarded with the captain’s armband in the limited-overs formats after Faf du Plessis stepped down as Proteas skipper. There is no doubt that Quinton will surely be the one to watch out for the Mumbai Indians.

Chris Lynn

Mumbai Indians bought some good players in the auction process and Chris Lynn was one of them. Interestingly, the Australian batsman was the biggest acquisition for MI in the process. He was released by the Kolkata Knight Riders during the trade window and was subsequently snapped by the Mumbai outfit for Rs. 2 crores. In 41 games, Lynn has scored 1280 runs in one of the best T20 leagues across the globe. The 29-year-old right-hander, who has a strike rate of 140.65 and an average of 33.68, has the ability to play big shots in different conditions.

Suryakumar Yadav

Suryakumar Yadav has been sensational for Mumbai Indians since he joined them in 2018. The right-hander, who was used to play for Kolkata Knight Riders, was given the responsibility to open the batting line-up for Mumbai India in 2018. Despite being new to the role, Yadav did exceptionally well, scoring 512 runs in 14 games that season. Suryakumar can switch gears easily and could even play patiently whenever the situation demands.

News Cricket

Sleep-deprived Ishant Sharma was forced to play by Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri

Abhishek Singh Updated: 22 February, 2020, 4:32 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Having picked up three wickets in the first innings of New Zealand, it was expected that Ishant Sharma would be happy at the end of the day. However, Ishant has said that he was not feeling good at all and that it was only for the team that he agreed to be in the playing eleven.

“I am not happy because I have not slept for two days and I was struggling a lot today (with my body). The way I would have liked to bowl, it did not happen. They asked me to play and I played. Anything, for the team,” Ishant Sharma, who has the experience of playing 96 Tests under his hat, was quoted as saying by India TV.

The pacer was content by his bowling display but he was not happy with the amount of sleep that his body has received since his arrival in New Zealand.

“Not that I wasn’t happy with my bowling. I wasn’t happy with my body as I could only sleep for 40 minutes last night and day before the Test match, I slept for three hours,” said Ishant on his battle with the ‘jet lag’.

Ishant was rushed to New Zealand after recovering from a ligament.

News Cricket

Ajinkya Rahane registers unwanted record for the first time in his career

Abhishek Singh Updated: 22 February, 2020, 4:13 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Ajinkya Rahane, for the first time, has achieved a dubious feat, of getting involved in run-out for the in his Test career. In the morning session of day two, Rahane was involved in a horrible mix-up with young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant.

Prior to this, India's Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane wasn't involved in a single run-out in his Test career.

Rahane blocked a ball and stormed towards the non-strikers' end for a single. In reply, Pant went ahead but halted mid-way seeing the fielder, Ajaz Patel running towards the strikers' end quickly. Eventually, the 22-year-old decided to sacrifice his wicket as a result of the confusion in the middle and departed for 19.

From 132 for 5, India were then bundled out for a paltry 165. It was also the first instance after the Jamaica Test versus West Indies in August 2019 that India were bowled out in an innings.

As a result of the mix-up, Rahane got involved in his first-ever run-out in his Test career. While Rahane top-scored with 46, Pant’s miserable run of form continued, as he got out for 19. If India want to remain in the two-match Test series opener, they need to strike regularly.

Feature Cricket

Five batsmen to watch out for Delhi Capitals in IPL 2020

Abhishek Singh Updated: 22 February, 2020, 4:07 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Delhi Capitals did pretty well in the last edition of the Indian Premier League. After changing their name, they made it to the knockout stage for the first time in the last few years. Under their skipper, Shreyas Iyer, Capitals are looking forward to land their first IPL trophy in the upcoming season. Let’s take a look at five batsmen, who can lead their team to IPL glory.

Marcus Stoinis

He was the best batsman in the last edition of the Big Bash League and was rewarded with the best player award for his heroics. In BBL, Stoinis scored 705 runs at a strike rate of 136.63 and an average of 54.23. In IPL though, Stoinis has not been able to leave his mark so far. He has had a decent outing though, having scored 473 runs from 29 matches. But apart from his one performance, where he took 4/15 against Mumbai Indians, playing for Kings XI Punjab, the Western Australia player has not lived up to the hype. However, his track record in the shortest format is worth applauding. With 2430 runs and 62 wickets in 114 T20 matches, Stoinis has proved to be a genuine all-rounder.

Rishabh Pant

Rishabh Pant has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Lack of form, injuries and whatnot. It hasn’t been a good year for Pant so far. But as soon as the IPL arises, Rishabh Pant is like 'Cometh the hour, cometh the man’. He can turn the tide in his favor. He is one batsman who has been mastering the league like no one else. Over the past four seasons, Pant has scored 1736 runs in 54 matches with a phenomenal strike rate of 162.69 and a decent average of 36.16. Although at the international level, Pant has not been able to replicate his IPL form and that has been a reason of worry for the national team. But we are talking about IPL and over here, he rules the roost. He has an array of shots in his kitty that are destructive, to say the least.

Shreyas Iyer

Captain charismatic comes at number three on the list. Mostly because he hasn’t made as much of an impact as Pant in the IPL. But boy he is in some form in the International circuit! In his last 10 matches, the Mumbaikar has scored 421 runs at a whopping average of 60.142. Not only that, but he was also India’s leading run-scorer in the recently concluded ODI series in New Zealand. In the Indian Premier League, Iyer has done quite well. In 62 matches, Iyer has scored 1681 runs at an average of 30.56 and a somewhat modest strike rate of 126.96. But since May last year, Iyer has performed exceedingly well. In 2019-20, Iyer scored 334 runs in 15 innings at an average of 33.4 and a strike rate that dwells between 135 and 140.

Jason Roy

Along with Stoinis, another foreigner, who has performed well and has made himself a playing XI permanent is- Jason Roy. Since the 2019 World Cup itself, Roy has been in supreme touch. Although, he did not go through a good patch in Mzansi Premier League and missed the New Zealand T20I series. Since his return to the national side against South Africa, earlier this month, Roy has performed well for the Three Lions, both in the ODIs and in the T20Is. Roy has scored 5977 runs in 232 innings in his T20 career and has played all around the world.

Prithvi Shaw

Prithvi Shaw scored runs in the Ranji Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. In the domestic T20, Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Shaw made 240 runs from five matches at a strike rate of 170 and. He also played quite well even for the India A team, before getting a call for the national side’s 50 over travails in New Zealand. Although he failed to convert the starts he got in New Zealand, but Shaw can never be kept out of a match especially in a T20 game on Indian pitches. He has played a few superb Knocks in IPL. Overall, Shaw has scored 598 runs in 25 matches at a prolific strike rate of 141.03.

Opinion Cricket

What’s ailing Virat Kohli in New Zealand?

Renin Wilben Albert Updated: 22 February, 2020, 4:04 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Eight matches, 182 runs at an average of 22.75 with a best of 51. These are not numbers you generally associate with the run-machine named Virat Kohli. But, these are the actual stats of the Indian captain on the tour of New Zealand, updated till his dismissal in the first innings of the Wellington Test. To be more precise, Kohli’s numbers in New Zealand read 45, 11, 38, 11 in the four T20Is he played, 51, 15 and 9 in the three ODIs as India were whitewashed, and 2 in the first innings of the Wellington. Kohli has now gone without a hundred in 19 international innings, his worst batting run since February-October 2014, when he went century-less for 25 innings.

It is not that Kohli was in poor form before heading on the plane to New Zealand. In fact, he had notched up 78 and 89 at Rajkot and Bengaluru respectively as India got the better of Australia 2-1 in the ODIs at home. His last international hundred though came against Bangladesh during the historic Day-Night Test at Eden Gardens in Kolkata. What is it then that’s going wrong with the Indian captain in New Zealand?

Mental fatigue or law of averages?

Before the start of the Wellington Test, Kohli revealed during an interaction with the media that he wants to play all formats of the game for the next three years, after which he will make a decision on his future plans. At the same time, he also admitted that the constant flow of matches and incessant traveling is taking a toll on him. Remember India arrived in New Zealand just a few hours after their victory over Australia at Bengaluru. And, there won’t be a big gap between South Africa’s three ODI-tour of India and the IPL.

Perhaps, the tight cricketing schedule has affected Kohli’s powers of concentration in New Zealand, a place where the slightest mistake can cost the batsman his wicket considering the challenging conditions. It is not as if Kohli has looked out of form. In fact, he has got himself in a number of times but has found ways to get himself out. Then, there is also the small matter of luck and law of averages. Since the horrific 2014 tour of England, Kohli has had an unbelievably consistent run across formats. Somewhere down the line, to prove that Kohli is only human after all, there was bound to be a lull period.

Tied down by smart Kiwi bowlers

While the above-mentioned points hold very much true, credit must also be given to New Zealand bowlers for doing their homework very adeptly against Kohli. The Kiwis knew that if Kohli does well, India would invariably succeed especially in the shorter formats. And, his failure in the ODIs coinciding with India being whitewashed 0-3 reiterated how heavily the team still depends on their skipper to deliver in the 50-over format.

The New Zealand bowlers did very well not to give Kohli much room to free his arms. Once he gets into his groove, it is very difficult to stop Kohli. But, the Kiwi bowlers ensured the Indian captain was back in the hut before that phase. If one analysis the 31-year-old’s dismissals in the three ODIs, Ish Sodhi, breached Kohli’s defense at Hamilton, preying on the Indian captain’s weakness against leg-spin bowling. In the second ODI at Auckland, Tim Southee tested Kohli with tight lines, and eventually broke through. At Mount Maunganui, Kohli did not look in any sort of rhythm.

Kohli’s dismissal in the first innings of the Wellington Test, fishing outside the off-stump, was a failed attempt at trying to break free and had shades of England 2014. Of course, neither Kohli nor India should not be worried about the captain’s mini-slump. However, the Indian skipper still has time to make a difference. Unlike the ODIs, Kohli knows Tests are relevant and will be keen to set the wrongs right.

Feature Cricket

Ranji Trophy undergoes a metamorphosis

Partab Ramchand Updated: 22 February, 2020, 4:02 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Following the ongoing Ranji Trophy quarterfinals one cannot escape the metamorphosis that has taken place in India’s premier domestic cricket tournament. The quarterfinalists are Gujarat, Bengal, Karnataka, Saurashtra, Andhra, Jammu & Kashmir, Odisha and Goa. A few years ago this sort of line-up could not have been envisaged. There is only one heavyweight remaining in Karnataka which has won the trophy eight times. The teams eliminated at the league stage include Mumbai (41 times champion), Delhi (8 times champions), Baroda (5 times champion), Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad, Maharashtra, Railways and Rajasthan who have won the trophy twice each, Vidarbha who have won the title the last two years and winners of the trophy once in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Even after conceding the fact that the Ranji Trophy is now an open field and the days of the heavyweight teams dominating could well be a thing of the past the kind of scenario that has been seen in this year’s competition is quite extraordinary.

This is not just reflected in the teams making the last eight but also in the stats of the season. For example, the highest run-getter is Rahul Dalal of Arunachal Pradesh with a tally of 1340 at an average of 95.71 with four hundreds and five half-centuries and a highest score of 267 not out. The three who follow Dalal in the list are from Mizoram, Meghalaya and Puducherry. All with over 900 runs each. Batsmen from Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Goa and Nagaland find a place in the top ten with only one player from a heavyweight team – Sarfaraz Khan of Mumbai – breaking the monopoly. When it comes to the highest scores notched up in this year’s championship five of the top ten are from Mizoram, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Goa with Taruwar Kohli of Mizoram leading the way with 307 not out.

It’s the same story when it comes to bowling. Going into the quarterfinals Sanjay Yadav of Meghalaya is the leading wicket-taker with 55 wickets from nine matches at an average of 12.65. Again in the top ten bowlers from Services, Puducherry, Tripura and Sikkim dominate. Sanjay Yadav has notched up the season’s best innings figures of nine for 52. While Karnataka’s K Gowtham has the best match figures of 14 for 170, Imliwati Lemtur of Nagaland and Sanjay Yadav are close behind with a match haul of 13 wickets.

One does not know whether any of these players will come even close to donning an India cap but then at the start of the new millennium could anyone have expected a player from Jharkhand to emerge as a true legend of Indian cricket? In any case, it is heartening to know that players from literally every nook and corner of the country are performing admirably and helping their team’s cause. One hopes that some of them are rewarded with representation at a higher level or land an IPL contract.

News Cricket

Umar Akmal was in touch with bookies before the Pakistan Super League

Abhishek Singh Updated: 22 February, 2020, 4:00 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Pakistani batsman Umar Akmal, who was suspended by the anti-corruption unit of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for breaching the code of conduct, has admitted that he was in touch with a bookie and he failed to report to the PCB.

Reports surfaced in a Pakistani news channel, Geo News that he accepted charges leveled against him, once damning evidence was provided by the anti-corruption unit of the PCB. On Thursday night, the board had intercepted a call that Umar Akmal had made to the bookies.

Senior sports journalist Abdul Majid Bhatti said that the cricketing body possessed the records of an intercepted phone call between Akmal and the bookies. The anti-corruption cell of the PCB was monitoring the suspicious calls for four full days before finally deciding to take the matter to the chairman, Ehsan Mani, just a night before the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

The anti-corruption unit has also confiscated the cell phone of Umar Akmal. Earlier, PCB had banned Umar Akmal from taking part in any cricket-related activity before the investigation against him is completed.

Meanwhile, Quetta Gladiators have named Anwar Ali as his replacement.

News Cricket

Babar Azam has surpassed me – Kumar Sangakkara

Abhishek Singh Updated: 22 February, 2020, 3:26 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Former Sri Lanka cricketer and the current President of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), Kumar Sangakkara has said that Babar Azam has improved leaps and bounds and there should no comparisons made between him and the young Pakistani batter.

“I think Babar Azam has already surpassed me in many ways. His aim should be to become Babar Azam, The best Babar Azam possible,” Sangakkara was quoted as saying in an interview with Cricket Pakistan.

Sangakkara is in Pakistan as a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which toured the tension marred nation recently. Babar is taking long strides in the world of cricket and the great Sri Lankan also agrees to it.

“I have watched Babar Azam for a long time. I actually played with him for Karachi Kings. He is an exceptional player, one of the best in the world, in terms of Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, and Joe Root. He seems to adapt to every format very easily, he is a very special player,” added Sanga.

Babar is currently the ICC’s number-one T20I batsman and also features in the top five of the Test and ODI rankings. He is now plying his trade for the Karachi Kings in the 2020 edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

News Cricket

I want to play like Ravindra Jadeja - Ashton Agar

Abhishek Singh Updated: 22 February, 2020, 2:11 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Australian spinner Ashton Agar stole the show for his side in the first T20I against South Africa on Friday. The 26-year-old left-arm bowler scalped five wickets at the Wanderers Stadium in Gauteng Province. In the match, Agar also took a hat-trick against the hosts and became the second Australian bowler to achieve the feat in the shortest format of the game.

After his five-wicket haul, Agar revealed the name of his favorite cricketer in the world. The Aussie said that he wants to play like the Indian player Ravindra Jadeja. While calling him a rockstar, Agar also stated that Jadeja spins the ball very well and take the field with full confidence.

"I had a wonderful chat with Ravindra Jadeja after the India series. He's my favorite player in the world - I want to play cricket as he does. He's an absolute rockstar: smacks them, gun fielder, and spins the ball. But it's just his presence when he's out there, watching his confidence.. just talking to him about spin bowling, keep trying to spin the ball. When he's batting he has a really positive attitude and he takes that attitude into the field as well."

Aussies will now take on the Proteas in the second T20I which is scheduled to take place at the St George’s Oval on February 23.

News Cricket

BCB wants Virat Kohli to play for Asia XI vs. World XI

Abhishek Singh Updated: 22 February, 2020, 11:42 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has urged the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to allow Virat Kohli to play for Asia XI against World XI. The upcoming two matches will be played between March 18 to 22 to celebrate the birth centenary of Bangladesh's founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The Asia XI and World XI teams are yet to be confirmed for the two games but BCB CEO Nizamuddin Chowdhury said he is in constant touch with BCCI.

"We are still working on the scheduling and the players' availability for the games and will make the announcement soon. We are in constant touch with the BCCI over the availability of the Indian players," Chowdhury told PTI.

Asked about the Indian players' availability for the matches, BCCI President Sourav Ganguly said: "We have not yet finalized the names. We can send four to five players."

There’s also a plan that the two-match affair might be extended to three, with the final match being played in Ahmedabad, which could well turn out to be the inaugural match for renovated Motera.

"The third game is proposed at the renovated stadium, the Board is considering BCB's request," a BCCI official said.

It remains to be seen if Kohli makes himself available for the games in Dhaka. Indian team is currently in the middle of a full tour of New Zealand which ends on March 4.

News Cricket

India’s handsome hunk Yuzvendra Chahal dances with girls

Garima Kotroo Updated: 22 February, 2020, 10:53 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Indian spinner Yuzvendra Chahal is not only famous for his destructive bowling spells on the field, but he also makes the headlines for his witty banters off the field. His ‘Chahal TV’ is famous among the fans. The 29-year-old right-arm bowler never misses any chance to entertain followers with his non-cricketing activities. This time, Chahal came up with a Tik Tok video in which he can be seen dancing with two beautiful girls in a hilarious manner.

While both the girls did their steps with perfection, Chahal messed up the things. As expected, the video spread like a wildfire on social media platforms and went viral in no time.

On the match front, Chahal was seen playing for India in the five-match T20I series against the Black Caps. However, the leg-spinner didn't have the best of outing with the ball as he bagged only three wickets. Chahal then regained his form in the three-match ODI series against the same opponent. He scalped six wickets in the last two matches after going wicket-less in the first game. India are currently playing a two-match Test series against Kiwis and Chahal is not a part of the Test set up.