India back themselves to create history and beat England

Virat Kolli is having a great series, having scored 440 runs in the three matches so far. (Reuters)
Updated 23 August 2018
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India back themselves to create history and beat England

LONDON : Only one team in the history of Test cricket has won a five-match series from 2-0 down but India have an opportunity to emulate Don Bradman’s Australians of 1936-37 after fighting back against England.
Just don’t mention the outlandish idea to India’s coach Ravi Shastri.
“1936-37? I wasn’t even born, man! Why are you reminding me of 36-37?,” boomed Shastri in Nottingham after his side’s emphatic victory had reduced their series deficit to 2-1 and prompted excitable questioning.
“One match at a time, we live in the present, okay? One game at a time. We move to Southampton and start afresh. Take a fresh guard. 2018,” added the coach, in his finest dead bat mode of old.
The man who could bore for India with the bat has another cavalier side to him, though.
A guy who also once belted six sixes in an over — and in an era long before Twenty20 bashes — can keep the lid on the hype but Shastri knows his men must attack this once-in-a-lifetime chance with gusto.
His players were on a roll as England’s batsmen just rolled over at Trent Bridge. He purred at watching what he felt was “by far” the best Indian pace attack he’d seen. And, above all, he trusted in his captain marvel Virat Kohli.
When the brilliant Bradman, in his first series as Australia’s captain, went two down in those 1936-37 Ashes, he responded with a monumental 270 at Melbourne that set up their third Test win.
Kohli’s 200 runs at Trent Bridge — the second time in the series he had compiled a double century of runs in the match, following his defiant effort in a losing cause at Edgbaston — provided the same impetus for his side, continuing a series in which he has underlined his own greatness as a batsman.
So what happens next? In Bradman’s case, further epic captain’s innings — 212 at Adelaide and 169 back in Melbourne — laid the foundations of the 3-2 comeback win.
Yet while “The Don” was always in a world of his own, Kohli has his own Bradmanesque air at the moment.
“His work ethic is second to none. I haven’t seen any cricketer — I’ll put Tendulkar in that bracket — when it comes to preparation, in the way he visualizes situations, the way he goes about planning what he plans to do,” Shastri said.
“I promise you, Virat will forget these two innings now and take guard again as if he hadn’t scored a run in the series.”
Being ranked alongside the great Sachin Tendulkar would not so long ago have been considered almost unthinkable in India — now, though, it is accepted as a matter of routine.
Some good judges even believe Kohli is actually surpassing India’s little masters, Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar, now that he has conquered what they considered his last hurdle of thriving in English conditions.
In one area, there can be no argument. Kohli paid tribute to Tendulkar after India’s 2011 World Cup win, saying: “He has carried the burden of our nation on his shoulders for the past 21 years. So it is time that we carried him.”
Now it is Kohli carrying the same burden and doing so beautifully. The Trent Bridge 200 took his tally for the series to 440, including two centuries, and returned him to the top of the ICC Test rankings for batsmen.
With two Tests left — the next starts at Southampton on Aug. 30 — Kohli, who has scored more Test runs (726) than anyone in 2018, needs six more to top 6,000 in Tests and if he does so in the first innings, he will have reached the landmark in his 119th knock. Tendulkar took 120.
He could also go on to overhaul Rahul Dravid’s tally of 602 runs, the most by an Indian in a series in England.
Yet it is a measure of the way the 29-year-old has matured from tyro batsman into inspirational leader that the collective feat of India completing a cricket comeback for the ages would mean far more to him than more individual laurels.
“We definitely believe we can if we play cricket like this,” said the man who looks as if he could achieve anything if he keeps batting like this.


Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

Updated 21 February 2019
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Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

  • Former world No.1 blames three-set loss on tiredness after nine matches in 13 days.
  • Halep has high hopes for the rest of 2019, saying her game is in good shape.

LONDON: Simona Halep is still certain a good year lies in store for her despite losing to Belinda Bencic in the Dubai quarterfinals.
The Romanian former world No. 1 was the favorite to win her second title in the emirate but ran out of steam as her Swiss opponent ran out 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 winner.
It was Halep’s ninth match in just 13 days and she admitted tiredness had caught up with her.
“It was really difficult physically. I was tired,” the world No. 2 said.

Bencic came from a set down to beat the favorite in the last-eight encounter in Dubai. (AFP) 


“After the second set, I felt like I’m getting cramping a little bit. It’s normal. I was sweating a lot.”
While, her fatigue was clear for all to see, Halep was not using it as an excuse, admitting Bencic, who has now beaten her in two of their three matches, was the deserved winner.
“Yeah, she played well. She played very well. In the end, she was a little bit stronger,” the Romanian said.
Having lost in the Qatar final last weekend and failed to make the last-four in Dubai you might think Halep would be disappointed with her Middle East stint. She was, however, far from glum and revealed she is looking forward to landing more titles to add to her collection during the rest of the year.

Cheerio from Halep after her defeat to the Swiss. (AFP) 


“I think were three good weeks. Tough weeks. A lot of tension, a lot of pressure. Also the Fed Cup,” she said.
“I take only positive things. I had great matches. My level is good. Physically also I’m good. But day by day I had to play, so is not easy.
“I’m confident for the next tournaments.”