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Davis Cup: India bank on Prajnesh, CSC grass courts to upset Italy

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India would rely heavily on in-form Prajnesh Gunneswaran and favourable home conditions to upset former champions Italy in their bid to qualify for the inaugural Davis Cup Group Finals when the two teams clash in the Qualifiers starting here from Friday.
The rejigged Davis Cup enters a new era with 12 qualifiers across the globe on the road to Madrid Finals in November.
Against a team which leads 4-1 on head-to-head record, India have returned to their favourite Calcutta South Club (CSC) grass courts after 16 years.
The venue boasts of an impressive 8-2 win-loss record for India, including the solitary victory over Italy in the 1985’s World Group 1st Round.
“It’s grass, not clay! Maybe next time, we will play on clay against India. We have nothing to complain,” said 1976 Davis Cup winner Corrado Barazzutti, here as the non-playing captain of Italy.
Another boost for India is the shortened format. The popular ‘home-away’ format has been retained for the qualifiers and the ties now will be held in two days with two singles on Friday and a doubles plus two return singles on Saturday.
Matches will now be played over best-of-three sets in place of gruelling best of five, adding to the unpredictability factor and Italy, despite having three of their five players inside top-50, cannot breathe easy.
India’s non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi has already said there is no room for excuses for the home side and would be banking on their top-ranked singles player Prajnesh (102) to get the hosts off the block.
The big-serving southpaw, who is fresh from making his Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open, achieved one of the best wins of his career on grass when he shocked Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, the current world number 25.
And it’s no surprise that Bhupathi will heavily bank on Prajnesh in singles while the most-experienced Rohan Bopanna will look to carry on his fine momentum with comeback man Divij Sharan in doubles. The duo won the Tata Maharashtra Open earlier this month.
With the hosts needing to win at least three rubbers to secure a place in the finals, Prajnesh will play a key role, while the doubles will be equally crucial as has been the case historically for India.
But it’s easier said than done with world number 16 Marco Cecchinato spearheading Italy’s challenge.
Cecchinato won two ATP 250 titles last year, both on clay and it remains to be seen how the top-ranked Italian adjusts to grass.
In world number 37, Andreas Seppi, Italy also have the most-experienced player. Italy also has doubles specialist in Simone Bolelli, the 2015 Austrlian Open winner, while 22-year-old Matteo Baerrettini, the youngest member of the side will give X-factor to the visitors.
India lost 0-4 to Serbia in their World Group play-off clash in Kraljevo and the upcoming tie will be a litmus test for non-playing captain Bhupathi with reports indicating that his contract may not be renewed.
The venue has produced some of the epic encounters for India in the history of Davis Cup, including the 3-2 win over Australia to reach the Eastern Final in 1974 but conceded the title to South Africa, protesting the Apartheid regime.
But it was India’s World Group first round win over Switzerland that had made headlines after they had triumphed 3-2 in a rain-interrupted tie which was termed “black magic” by the referee
“It had rained whole night and the referee had booked return tickets. But we worked whole night to get the court ready. In the morning, the referee came and said it is ‘Indian black magic’ and we won. Their big serving player Marc Rosset almost looked redundant,” Bengal Tennis Association COO Sujoy Ghosh recalled.

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Nisha Shiwani hails from the pink city of Jaipur and is a prolific writer. She loves to write on Real Estate/Property, Automobiles, Education, Finance and about the latest developments in the Technology space.



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Cricket

World cup cricket 2019 winner paranoia: Predicting the unpredictable

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Summer comes in many ways for Indians. But this English summer has brought a special sensation that is World Cup Cricket. The quadrennial event has given some respite to the cricket aficionados in this scorching weather. In India cricket is religion and Tendulkars, Kohlis and Dhonis are worshipped as semi-gods. Their fanatic fans cannot digest the defeat at any means. The stubborn cricket lovers are completely obsessed with the team’s success and ultimately want to see captain Kholi conquering the world. Now the question arises, Can India deliver the goods? If not India who else will clinch the title? Predicting the unpredictable definitely needs a hail out of something as cricket is uncertain.

Going by the format and fixtures as each team will lock horn with 9 remaining teams(in total 10 teams are participating), it is early days to define and predict the form and momentum of the teams. As all the 10 teams are looking ominous and any team can surprise the stronger opponent on their day. Critically dissecting the results of matches till now have been played, no team looks to be underdogs or a dark horse. For an instance West Indies stunned and bounced out Pakistan comprehensively but battered, bruised and rattled Pakistan checked the juggernaut of the tournament most favourite English team in a close encounter. Most Interestingly Afghanistan surpassed Pakistan in the warm-up matches. Similarly, Bangladesh overpowered South Africa and gave a scare to the only undefeated side in four matches Kiwis in a cliffhanger. England completely outplayed Bangladesh by their batsman’s brute force but simply can not underestimate and undermine them by this performance.

Coming back to another favourite Australia, started positively by winning comprehensively over Afghanistan but narrowly escaped after the top-order collapse and thanks to some rearguard action mostly by Coulter-neil now can be called as an all-rounder now in this format against West Indies.

Now come to the most fan follower side all over the world that is none other than team India. The team looks to be an awesome touch. Openers are firing at the top but an unfortunate and untimely injury to Dhawan can be a big blow to team India ‘s world cup winning chances. But India’s has the sufficienct supplement in the form of stylish Karnataka opener  KL Rahul and who is going to replace Dhawan the Delhi dasher Risbah Pant. Rohit Sharma scintillating century against South Africa shows how good player he is in this format as rightly said by his skipper as the best one till now. King Kohli as arguably and undoubtedly the best batsman in the current scenario can tear apart any bowling attack in the world. His insatiable hunger for runs and gigantic one-day record definitely give some strong messages to the opposition. The only matter of debate the number –four in batting order looks to be little fragile but it was bit settled in the form by stylish K.L Rahul but an injury to Dhawan and pushing him to the top –order can be a lacuna in that position. But with the inclusion of Pant, can play some mind games in the opposition camp. Apart from number four conundrum, all places in the side look more settled and strengthened. Indian middle order with two mavericks in the form of Kedar Jadhav and Mumbai hurricane Hardikya can blow away any batting line up. All these descriptions without magician Mahendra Singh Dhoni are seen incomplete. His Midas touch reminds the black magic of witch that not only makes possible the impossible but can snatch the win from the opposition’s jaw by a whisker and handing over most unwelcome and unexpected defeat in no time. Not only his batting prowess but his glove work behind the stumps has been clueless for the opponent. The legend from Ranchi contribution to the game does not end here as his gimmick of marshalling fielders in middle and death overs and timely suggestion to the bowlers still shows why he is the boss on the field. Virat probably is a rare and only captain ever played in this format to give such responsibility and respect to his ex-captain. This show how team India is gelling together and contributing to the team’s success.

After a detailed analysis of batting-depth and power, we must look at the what Indian bowling offers to the opposition. It is a balanced one with seam, swing, speed and spin, every angle as per possible covered. Jaspit Bumarah speed and deadly toe-crushing Yorker can be lethal to any opposition, both at the opening spell and slog overs. Bhuvaneswar Kumar has already shown his swing and seam skill in the English conditions in both the encounter India has faced. Not to forget the Bengal speedster Shami, quickest for India to take 100 wickets in this format can be a handy customer in this temperate English conditions. The troika pace battery of India has probably the best ever India has for long to represent a world cup cricket.

As the progress of the event and with summer coming hard to the English soil, pitches will play some tricks in terms of spinning options. The spin twins Kuldeep and Cahal offer the varieties and mysteries to play some stratagem in the opposition. They complement in such a way that opposition faces an uphill task to free from their tight grip in the crucial middle orders. They not only squeeze the opposition but their ability to give crucial and timely breakthrough can split the backbone of the counterpart.

Cricket is a funny game as we analyze past world cup winners, apart from mighty West –Indies in ’70s and ’80s and the invincible Aussies in twenty-first centuries all winners are underdogs. They came from nowhere to clinch the prestigious title in cricket history. Be it Kapil’s 83 or Border’s 87 and moving on to 1992 the Imran Khan’s Pakistan and most interestingly Arjuna Ranatunga’s 1996 all are dark horses at the outset of the tournament. Thinking about mercurial Pakistan who could have not been able to play the semis in 1992 but the rain washed away the against most favourite and strong opponent the then England encounter, gives an important one point edge over Aussies and Indies. Like bad weather, this time is looming over ICC event and three matches have already abandoned anything can happen to the outcome of the quadrennial event.

Another aspect probably has not been noticed that is in the last two world cup the host has triumphed the trophy. Going by that trend England chances are pretty high in this year event. It has all ticks in the column to be a champion side. They have been relentlessly playing some serious cricket since their miserable failure in 2015 world cup.

Whatever may be the outcome, the cricket will win at the end of the day. Chauvinistic crowds must have a lot to cheer not only sixers but the wickets and catches. Cricket is a game of momentum, the team picks themselves at the right time and remain calm and composed in crunch situations will clinch the most awaited cricket world cup 2019. Fingers crossed.

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Delhi

Prestigious Garhwal Heroes are the champions for the third time. Defeated Indian Air Force Soccer team.

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Jubilant team of Garhwal Heroes Football Club with the winning Championship Trophy n a cheque of Rs. 1.5 lakhs
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The prestigious Garhwal Heroes Football Club today became the champions of the Delhi Soccer Association open club leagues competetion for the third time defeating outstanding Indian Air force Delhi Soccer team by scoring a penalty after a tie up in a highly interesting competetive final match.

The highly enthusiastic n jubilant audience under 44% celcius temperature fully enjoyed the finals with large numbers of old players and veterans present in the stadium cheering both the teams.

Highly spirited, enthusiastic n with a unique killing spirit both Garhwal Heroes and Indian Air force players played extremely well creating a great competition and trying to be offensive on each other.

But the Garhwal Heroes Football Club team with young energetic n dexterity oriented players had a special killing knack with aggressive attack formulation giving the IAF team a great competition.

It was just before the half time that Garhwalies scored a fantastic hard hitting goal against the IAF team degrading their morale n sporting spirit.

But the IAF maintained their energy and fighting knack and scored a goal making the equalizer before the half time.

The Garhwal Heroes were bit demoralised but maintained the spirit.

They played the attacking game but the IAF were no less lagging behind and tried their best to dominate the scene till twenty minutes for the game to end.

Garhwal Heroes too revitalised their efforts n killing spree but the IAF was not ready to submit having equalised the goal.

Finally the game ended with a tie of 1-1 Goal and the referees had no option but to give both the teams another half an hour.

The temperature was slightly coming down but the morale of both the teams was tremendously high. The spectators were tight lipped n praying in their own ways foor the succes of their respective teams.

The match was again a draw after the additional half an hours’ grace.

Finally it was the time for penalty 5 each penalty kicks for both the team and the football dexterity and luck finally favoured the Garhwal Heroes Footbal Club who finally became the champions with a prestigious trophy n a cash prize of Rs 1.5 lakhs.

The runners up team was also presented a Runners up trophy and a cheque of Rs 75 thousands. It may be recalled that Garhwal Heroes Football Club that was founded in 1953, has won the prestigious DSA champion in 1986, 2013 n now in 2019. WOW

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Cricket

MSD-2; SUCCESS SOJURN CONTINUES

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Contemplating   a tiny take from the Oscar-winning movie Gladiator and Academy award-winning actor Russell Crowe’s fabulous narration from that movie only ‘Are you not entertained?’ and annexing with Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s entire cricket life, one aspect which comes to mind, who is the greatest entertainer in the current crop of cricketers for India? Not in terms of off the field activities but in the means of closing the cliffhanger in the last penultimate over’s like a classic Hollywood thriller making the most of matches exciting, enthralling and above all entertaining.

India is a nation where cricket is treated as a religion and Tendulkars are worshipped as semi Gods. But for us what matters most is how to snatch a victory from the opposition jaw by a whisker. Hats off to the magician Mahi.

Six months ago his position in Indian side was uncertain and raised few eyebrows of cricket laurels. He proved his critics wrong. Be it in front of the stumps or behind the stumps he is the go-to man for captain Kohli in crunch close matches.

Dhoni’s average in one –the day is 52.07 in 341 outings. Dhoni’s batting record is Bradmanesque when it comes successful run chase in ODI(in a minimum of 20 innings) is 99.85. Even the great Virat Kohli, who is at the prime of his career, is ranked second best to 37 years old with an average of 99.84 in successful  ODI run chase.

Looking at recent IPL performances of MSD performance speaks augur well. He averages at an astounding average @42.12 accumulating 358 runs in 11 outings.IPL is the biggest entertaining platform for all the prime cricketer for showcasing and proving their net worth for their franchise. The Ranchi dasher is the best entertainer ever in this format also. Suddenly TRPs of television channels are surging in the closing overs in recent times. Maverick Mahi performances not only proved his prowess in front of stumps but his gloves work behind stumps is stupefying. Dhoni pulls off 2 stumping within 3 balls in last IPL match against Delhi Capitals 0.12 and 0.16 seconds respectively.

People not only get attracted to him in the cricketing arena but also in international relations and affairs. Recently Syed Akbaruddin India’s permanent representative at prestigious UN said,’ he followed Dhoni’s approach of never say times up and never give up early in his efforts to bring member nations on the same platform. “ He relates this to the bidding to list Massod Azhar as a global terrorist.

Before the dawn of Australia series those who have ridiculed and advised the master to hang up his boots, now gambling India’s World-cup winning chances on his presence and performance in the Indian side. That is why he is the true cricket legend for India in modern times.

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Cricket

World Cup Cricket 2019 Selection Conundrum

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Selection is a negative process whereas recruitment is a positive one. Last week World Cup cricket 2019 Indian team selection speaks the same story. Be it Risbah Pant, Vijay Sankar, Dinesh Karthik or Ambati Rayudu, mention choices of many. Now the question arises do the selectors hit the bull’s eye or they simply missed a trick by a whisker.

Coming back to the above-cited players if we make one to one comparison, Pant looks to be a stronger and comfortable option rather than others. Starting from stalwarts like Sunil Gavaskar to Ricky Ponting everybody speaks augur well about the southpaw. Definitely, he is a rare breed and absolute murderer of a cricket ball. But he is purely picked as a middle order batsmen because his gloves work behind the stumps have raised eyebrows of many cricket pundits. Another interesting reason may be for his surprise omission is closing games, for which we may require nudgers and playing the ball in gaps for stealing single and converting ones into twos like the class of Michel Bevan rather than power hitting.

He might have proved his mettle in test cricket mostly overseas conditions with two exceptional and sensational centuries against England and Australia but his one-day performances do not sound well. His meek dismissals against weak opposition like West Indies and emerging and re-grouping Australian and below-par average 23.25 mostly in home condition does not cement his place in One-day team. Taking a risk can be a gamble in world-cup like event which may be a career-changing criterion.

Talking about Rayudu vs Sankar the earlier performance is better than Sankar. He averages in one –day at a healthy rate i.e, 47.06. But as rightly advocated by MSK Prasad, chief selector of senior cricket team BCCI,” Sankar is a 360-degree player”. Sanker bowling looks ordinary in Sub-continent conditions where he hardly bowls but in English condition, he can be a handy asset when the weather is overcast and the bowl will be taking in the air. He can give you some game-changing odd break-through. Sankar is an excellent fielder and his batting has come of age in recent times with rare failures(avg;33.0 both in India and overseas conditions).

Now taking attention to another debatable selection, Dinesh Karthik, who is picked purely as a wicket keeper batsmen with better keeping record than Pant and can be a good finisher in crunch situations though still not proved immensely in one-days. As Dhoni is no more getting younger and World cup is a long tournament, India may provide some rest to his all-time best finisher ever in this format.

Having discussed the selection conundrum we must remain sanguine that India must emerge as the conquering of the world cup one –day cricket. They should supplant their 83’s heroes by lifting the cup for the third time with a  trademark British champagne in their hands.

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Premier League: Liverpool face Tottenham Hotspur test in quest for title

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Liverpool face arguably the toughest challenge remaining in their quest to end nearly three decades without a Premier League title when a Tottenham side with their own desperate need for points visit Anfield on Sunday.
Jurgen Klopp’s men hold a two-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table but have played one game more meaning they need the champions to slip up at some point in their remaining eight games.
However, City face a brutal April schedule as they bid to complete a historic quadruple of trophies and still have to travel to local rivals Manchester United, as well as hosting Tottenham themselves Tricky trips to Southampton, Cardiff, and Newcastle, who are all battling for survival, await Liverpool but the majority of their seven remaining games are at fortress Anfield, where they have dropped just four points all season.
“They are unbeaten in the Premier League at Anfield, it is going to be a massive challenge,” admitted Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino. “We respect them, they are doing a good job.” Just a few weeks ago, Spurs could have circled Sunday’s visit as a chance to claw back ground in the title race themselves.
However, a run of just one point from their last four Premier League games has left Pochettino’s men, now 15 points adrift of Liverpool in third, scrambling just to protect their place in the top four.
Three weeks have passed since their last outing for Pochettino to stew over a 2-1 defeat at Southampton and the Argentine wants a reaction at Anfield.
“We are in a very good position in the Premier League and the Champions League, but of course it is not enough” added Pochettino.
“I feel little disappointed because in some periods during the season we were really good and some, like now, we are not showing our real quality.” A trip north kicks off a momentous week for Spurs as they will finally begin life in the club’s new 62,000 capacity stadium on Wednesday against Crystal Palace after months of delays.
Pochettino hailed the venue as “the best stadium in the world”, but its unveiling at a reported cost of 1 billion has only emphasised the need for Spurs to make sure it hosts Champions League football next season.
However, Klopp believes Tottenham will be buoyed just by the experience of training in their new home this week.
“I think these are exciting times for Tottenham. I saw only pictures of it and it looks pretty impressive,” he added.
“Tottenham played their last game three weeks ago, I don’t think anybody feels any defeat from three weeks ago.
“We expect the strongest Tottenham you can expect because I heard nothing about any injury problems or whatever. They had a few over the season but not in the moment, so there will be a strong side here. A world-class team will be here.” Indeed, Harry Kane continued his strong comeback from an ankle injury by scoring in both England’s comprehensive victories over the Czech Republic and Montenegro.
Kane’s streak of 12 goals in 13 matches for club and country has seen him move level with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane on 17 Premier League goals, just one behind Man City’s Sergio Aguero in the race for the Golden Boot.
Salah pipped Kane to the award last season, but the Egyptian has scored just once in the last 10 games, while Mane has shouldered the goalscoring burden with 11 in as many games “I’m sure all the players up there will be looking to get that award,” said Kane.
“But it’s just a bonus. As a striker, I’ll be trying to help my team as much as possible.”

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Bahrain GP: Valtteri Bottas looking to repeat Albert Park performance

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Formula One’s Australian season-opener left Valtteri Bottas with a winning feeling that the Finn is determined to hang on to in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
The 29-year-old Mercedes driver, who started the year in meaner and more aggressive mood, took a crushing victory in Melbourne two weeks ago to finish more than 20 seconds clear of teammate Lewis Hamilton.
The result handed him the maximum 25 points for the win plus an extra point for setting the fastest lap.
Buoyed by the margin and finding himself heading the championship standings for the first time, albeit with 20 races remaining, Bottas must try to stay ahead at Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit.
“When you feel you are performing at your best is a beautiful feeling,” the four times race winner told reporters on Thursday. “I now just need to keep the momentum and feel that again soon.”
Bahrain has been one of Bottas’s stronger venues in the past.

The Finn scored his first Formula One pole position around the 5.4-km layout and came within a second of snatching victory from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel last year.
He is aware, however, that he could face a far tougher challenge on Sunday from Briton Hamilton and a resurgent Ferrari than he did in Australia.
“We were all positively surprised on the performance we had in Melbourne but… it is a bit of a funny circuit,” said the Finn.

“I would say here this weekend and (at the next race in) China, we’re going to get a much better picture of the real performance at this point of the year.”

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appointed as Manchester United manager

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Manchester United has confIrmed caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær as the club’s full time manager. He has been given a contract for three years. Ole took over United in December last year when the team’s fortune was virtually down in the dumps. From there, Ole has scripted an amazing turnaround with United winning 14 matches out of 19, with two draws.

United also won the first eight games under Ole at a stretch which was a much needed moral booster for the players still scathed from the Mourinho experience.

Ole is also a former United player with 366 caps in over a decade-long career with the club. Reacting to the announcement, he said, “From the first day I arrived, I felt at home at this special club,” said Solskjær. “It was an honour to be a Manchester United player, and then to start my coaching career here. The last few months have been a fantastic experience and I want to thank all of the coaches, players and staff for the work we’ve done so far. This is the job that I always dreamed of doing and I’m beyond excited to have the chance to lead the club long-term and hopefully deliver the continued success that our amazing fans deserve.”

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Cricket

Captains had earlier decided against Mankading: Rajeev Shukla

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Indian Premier League Chairman Rajeev Shukla has claimed that IPL captains, including Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, had decided against ‘Mankading’ during a meeting held before one of the editions of the event.

Kings XI Punjab captain Ravichandaran Ashwin kicked up a storm on Monday after running out Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Buttler at the non-strikers’ end on his delivery stride, a legally permissible but controversial form of dismissal popularly called ‘Mankading’, in an IPL match in Jaipur.

Ashwin’s action was heavily criticised by RR’s brand ambassador Shane Warne, who also questioned those who found nothing wrong with it.Weighing into the matter, Shukla said a call had been taken to avoid such dismissals in a meeting of captains and match referees in which Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Kohli and Chennai Super Kings skipper Dhoni were also present.

“If I remember in one of the meetings of captains & match referee where I was also present as chairman it had been decided that if non striking batsman steps out bowler as a courtesy will not run him out @IPL @BCCI,” he tweeted.”Most probably this meeting was in Kolkata on the eve of one of the editions of ipl where Dhoni & Virat both were present @BCCI @IPL,” he added without specifying the exact edition before which this decision was made.Ashwin’s run out of Buttler is the first case of ‘Mankading’ in the 12 editions of the IPL.

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UEFA fines Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo for Atletico celebration

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Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo was fined 20,000 euros ($22,712) by UEFA for a gesture he made while celebrating in their Champions League victory over Atletico Madrid last week, European soccer’s governing body said on Thursday.

Ronaldo escaped a ban and will, therefore, be free to face Ajax Amsterdam in the quarter-finals, with the first leg to be played in the Netherlands on April 10.

Ronaldo, who scored a hat-trick as the Italian champions overturned a 2-0 deficit from the first leg to win 3-2 on aggregate against Atletico, gestured towards his groin with two hands.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone had celebrated in a similar way after his team’s opening goal in the first leg in the Spanish capital.

The Argentine coach was fined the same amount by UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Committee.

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Cricket

Basil Thampi reveals how IPL has taken his game to the next level

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Young Kerala pacer Basil Thampi feels the IPL has given him the confidence to bowl at just about any batsman in the world as the tournament is more challenging for the bowlers.

The 25-year-old uncapped pacer will be turning up for the Sunrisers Hyderabad this year after two seasons with the now dissolved Gujarat Lions.

“It is very challenging to bowl in the IPL because it is a batsmen’s game and we all know that. We should have confidence to bowl, that is the key. So, in the last three years I got the confidence to bowl at everyone. Whenever I get the ball, I want to deliver my best,” Thampi told PTI in an interaction.

The IPL season 12 commences on March 23.

Thampi is part of an impressive bowling line-up that also includes experienced swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul and left-arm seamer Khaleel Ahmed.

“This coming season I want to do well. The most important thing is if I get a chance, I want to do well for the team. From the last experience, I learnt a lot for this team,” Thampi said.

The youngster said he will mostly stick to his stock delivery, which is the yorker.

“Because I have good yorkers, I guess, and I want to stick to it and, with that, some variations,” the right-arm medium pacer said.

According to Thampi, the most important thing which he learnt from the senior pacers was how to prepare his body.

Thampi said he shares a good rapport with his co-pacers.

“We know each other. Khaleel, Sandeep and Siddharth Kaul, we have played together in India A matches. We are (always) sharing our thoughts on and off the field,” he said.

Sunrisers will begin their IPL campaign against Kolkata Knight Riders on March 24 at the Eden Gardens. PTI NRB SSR GK

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