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India captain Virat Kohli described his team’s 73-run win in the 5th ODI against South Africa as a “complete performance”. The win enabled India to take a winning 4-1 lead in the six-match series, their first success in seven bilateral or multi-team series in South Africa. Kohli, however, vowed no let ups in the final ODI of the series. “We want to win 5-1 but there might be a scenario to give a few (other) guys a chance.” Kohli said with the series won using only 12 of India’s 17-man squad. “It’s a wonderful feeling to have created some history. The guys really got stuck in, with the bat and the ball and in the field as well.” Kohli said praising the effort of his team.

Rohit Sharma ended a personal South African hoodoo and set up a series win for India. The Mumbai batsman’s 115 was his first major innings in three tours of South Africa.

South Africa‘s chances of overhauling India’s 274 for seven plummeted when they lost their first three wickets inside the first 13 overs. Hardik Pandya struck crucial blows by dismissing JP Duminy and AB de Villiers.

Hashim Amla played a measured innings of 71 and shared partnerships of 62 with David Miller and 39 with Heinrich Klaasen. He was run out by a direct hit from Pandya, effectively ending the home team’s hopes.

Indian wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal were effective on a slow pitch, taking four and two wickets respectively.

Rohit’s 17th one-day international century ended a run of low scores in South Africa. In 19 previous innings across both Tests and one-day internationals, his previous highest score was 47 and he had scored only 249 runs at an average of 13.11.

He said he had ensured that he stayed in a good frame of mind despite not making big scores.

“I have been enjoying South Africa. It’s a good place to play cricket. I knew I didn’t have to change a lot and the runs would come,” he said.

With the series won, using only 12 of India’s 17-man squad, Kohli said: “We want to win 5-1 but there might be a scenario to give a few (other) guys a chance.”

Although he was the mainstay of the innings, Sharma was at least partially complicit in two run-outs, both of which happened after he sent his batting partner back.

The first run-out accounted for captain Kohli, who made 36 — his lowest score of the series — in a second wicket stand of 105 with Rohit. Kohli called Sharma through for a risky single, then could not beat JP Duminy’s direct hit at the bowler’s end.

Ajinkya Rahane was the second run-out victim, playing a ball to mid-on and almost reaching the other end of the pitch before realizing Sharma was refusing a run.

Rohit hit 11 fours and four sixes in his 126-ball innings but should have been caught on 96 when Tabraiz Shamsi dropped a straightforward offering at third man off Kagiso Rabada.

Rohit’s 17th one-day international century ended a run of low scores in South Africa. In 19 previous innings across both Tests and one-day internationals, his previous highest score was 47 and he had scored only 249 runs at an average of 13.11.

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Former India captain Sourav Ganguly believes that Virat Kohli can be clubbed in the same pedigree as the famed batting quarter of Sachin Tendulkar,Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag. Kohli has been at the forefront of the Indian team’s revival following two straight losses in the Test series, starting with scores of 54 and 41 on a treacherous Wanderers wicket in the final Test which India won, followed by innings of 112, 46* and 160* to help India gain a 3-0 lead in the best-of-six-ODI contest.

In his column for TOI, Ganguly highlighted Kohli’s energy and intensity in every innings as remarkable. “It has been a superb performance from India. To see them 3-0 up in a six-match ODI series in South Africa, especially after losing the Test series, speaks volumes of the character shown by Virat Kohli and his boys,” wrote Ganguly, who played 311 ODIs and 113 Tests. “I have been fortunate enough to play with and against the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Ricky Ponting, and Brian Lara, and this man is right up there with all of them. What stands out for me is not just his amazing control and his ability to adjust but also the energy and intensity he brings to his batting in each and every innings.”

“To get to 34 ODI centuries so quickly in his career is just out of the world. The fact that no other Indian batsman has touched a three-figure mark so far on this tour and only one South African has got a century shows what quality of batsmanship Kohli has displayed on this trip. And we still have a while to go!,” he added.

Ganguly, who led India to the final of the 2003 ICC World Cup in South Africa, also heaped praise on the wrist-spinning pair of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who like Kohli have had a profound impact for India. “What has been equally commendable is the way Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have bowled. To get 21 out of 30 wickets [sic: 28] in three matches says much, not just about the number but also about the psychological effect the spin duo is having on the South African batting line-up. What is even more satisfying is that this performance has come on pitches that have not offered much turn,” he wrote.

 “The dismissal of South Africa captain, Aiden Markram, was a perfect example of the fact that the Proteas are not watching the revolution of the ball and lost the mental battle against the two spinners. One couldn’t help but notice the smile on Kuldeep’s face when he went pass the bat of Andile Phehlukwayo in the later stages of the game.”
AB de Villiers has not featured in the series on account of a finger injury, but reports indicate that he will return for the must-win fourth ODI on Saturday in Johannesburg. According to Ganguly, de Villiers needs to emulate his Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mate Kohli if the hosts have any chance of preventing India from wrapping up their first ODI series win on South African soil this weekend.

“There are three more games left in the series and the good news for South Africa is that AB de Villiers will be back, but his mere presence will not help the fortunes of his side. He has to do a Kohli for his team to turn its fortunes around. The South Africans have had some selection issues which have surprised many. Morne Morkel being left out on Wednesday raised some eyebrows, and he is a must in the next three games for them,” wrote Ganguly. “Also, if Khaya Zondo and Phehlukwayo have to play for South Africa, they will have to raise their game more than what has been on display till now in the series. One has to deserve a place in an international side and at present that is not happening for them.”

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“MASS PARTICIPATION” and “promotion of excellence in sports” — these are the twin objectives of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports behind the first Khelo India School Games (KISG), which began here on January 31. But last week, the 42-kg freestyle wrestling event for boys saw just three entries, ensuring a podium finish for all of them.

In most other weight categories too — both boys’ and girls’ wrestling — there were only about 8-12 participants. The boys’ 46-kg freestyle wrestling fared the best, with 16 participants.

While KISG and the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) blamed each other for the low turnout, former School Games Federation of India (SGFI) president Satpal Singh said, “Khelo India is a very good scheme… To get the best results, it should be conducted responsibly… It ensures the future of a player, but we need to ensure that the player receives his money and there is no misuse.”

Each discipline at the nine-day event has a designated talent-hunt committee, which has been assigned the responsibility of picking the top two sportspersons who will each be entitled to a Rs 5-lakh annual scholarship for eight years.

Khelo India CEO Sandeep Pradhan said the 42-kg boys’ event was reduced to a three-way race for gold, silver and bronze since the WFI didn’t have time to hold fresh national championships.

“WFI held the national championships in March 2017. They sent us the list of participants, but closer to our event, many of the wrestlers had moved up in weight. Since WFI did not have time to conduct fresh nationals, the category suffered,” he said.

Asked why most of the other weight categories too had less than 12 wrestlers, Pradhan added: “Both SGFI and WFI told us that these are new weight categories introduced by the international federation, so sending wrestlers in those categories would be difficult.”

The WFI, in turn, blamed the KISG, saying it didn’t allow participation of wrestlers approved by them. “WFI had sent the names of 136 wrestlers, but about 100 could not participate because KISG said we had delayed the list,” said WFI secretary general V N Prasood.

On January 31, the first day of the event, many grapplers were turned away from the venue since their names didn’t figure in the official KISG list of participants.

Confusion over the last date for entries and lack of communication between KISG and WFI are seen as the primary reasons for the depleted wrestling draws.

Initially, the first of its kind mega sports event for under-17 school students was scheduled to be held last December. But it got pushed back due to Delhi’s high pollution levels during winter.

“With the change in dates, we had to change the list too. The old list would have had overage players. According to the international wrestling rules, the turn of a year results in the age of registered players increasing. We were following the same rule here, but the KISG organising committee doesn’t want to follow them. They wanted us to send the old list,” said the WFI official.

Prasood alleged lack of experience on the part of KISG officials. “They decided to set the last date of submission as January 15, 2018. Who is John Chandy (Khelo India COO) and what does he know about sports? They have hired daily wagers to run these Games. We are sending national medallists to Khelo India and they are saying we will not take them because their names were not submitted before the last date,” he said.

Former SGFI president Satpal Singh said the issue should be probed in detail, to avoid a repeat in the future. “Sometimes, wrestlers move up weight categories or exceed the age limit. I am not sure why there were only three wrestlers in a category. I can tell you only after inquiring,” he said.

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When India won the three-Test series against Sri Lanka in Delhi this week, it was their ninth consecutive Test series victory. In these nine series, India have played 30 Tests, and lost only two. Only two teams in the history of the game have won nine series in a row: England did it between 1884 and 1892; and Australia equalled that record between 2005 and 2008. England accomplished it in an age in which cricket was almost unrecognisable from the game it is today. And the Australian side that achieved it is one of the truly great teams of the contemporary game. So India’s is a remarkable feat.

It is pertinent to ask whether this India team is one of the truly great ones of the modern era. Not really. Not yet, anyway. Despite having triumphed in 21 of the past 30 Tests, this team does not wear a cloak of invincibility. It does not strike fear into the hearts of the opposition in the manner of era-defining sides such as Clive Lloyd’s West Indies, Vivian Richards’s West Indies, Steven Waugh’s Australia, or Ricky Ponting’s Australia. An aura of invincibility is one of those intangible things in sport: it is hard to define precisely, but we know it when we see it. A truly great team would not have struggled to bowl out Sri Lanka – as India did – on the final day of the Test in Delhi.

In the nine-series-winning streak, there are no famous wins, nothing to compare with Port of Spain in 1976, or Headingley in 1981, or Eden Gardens in 2001, or Adelaide in 2003. One can only play the opposition one has been handed, but the lack of the kind of victory that enters cricketing lore does nothing to burnish this side’s reputation.

Finally, just one of the nine winning series has been played outside Asia. The true litmus test in cricket is being able to prevail in hostile, unfamiliar conditions. During their nine-series run of victories, Australia beat South Africa in South Africa – a mighty achievement. And months before that streak began, Australia beat India in India – one of the toughest jobs in the modern game. That kind of triumph is the hallmark of an indisputably great side.

India play tough series away from home in 2018. If they can acquit themselves with honour in South Africa, England and Australia, there will be no room for debate. This team would then have staked a claim on greatness.

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A month ago when smog-hit Delhi hosted the half-marathon, it was hailed as the world’s most dangerous run.

It was a bit uncharitable but hit its mark when men’s winner, Birhanu Legese of Ethiopia, said after the race that the elite competitors “were scared” after numerous health warnings about the smog and its potential long-term damage to lungs and other vital organs were aired and printed on an everyday basis.

Part of the fear was news that the Beijing Marathon a couple of years earlier had been severely hit by similar smog and had resulted in heart attacks to six runners and an official.

The president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), KK Aarwal, was quoted on the eve of the run as saying that the Delhi half marathon runners were at risk for lung-related problems and heart attacks owing to severe pollution and presence of suspended particles in the air.

Thus, while Sri Lanka cricketers’ reactions on Sunday could be passed off as an attempt to escape an inevitable pounding at the hands of India, it must be accepted that Delhi has a history with smog and its disruptive influence on sport and normal life.

It must be remembered that just last season, two Ranji Trophy matches, Bengal vs Gujarat and Hyderabad vs Tripura, were called off as the players complained of burning sensation in their eyes and also dry and hoarse throats. The teams believed that the conditions were unplayable and would hurt their cricketers in the short and long run. The umpires complied, even if it seemed a bit of an overreaction.

Courts, government, NGOs and others have tried various things to minimise or eliminate the smog in Delhi. These steps include the odd-even rule, mandatory switch to CNG buses, banning the sale of fire crackers ahead of Diwali, shutting down of schools as a health precaution for children, attempts to ban construction activities in winter, among others.

Sadly, none of these have addressed what experts believe is the reason: residual crop-burning in many parts of north India.

That apart, it is evident that smog will cause long-term damage to breathing, as repeatedly warned by doctors of IMA.

That being the case, is it wise to continue scheduling sports events in Delhi during winter? Will we have to wait for a disaster, like in Beijing, to strike before Delhi is taken off the sporting map of India?

It is a fact that sport requires clean air and environment, especially as these are the minimum requirement for a healthy mind and body. It is just as obvious that Delhi cannot provide these basic necessities to make playing and watching sport an enjoyable one. In that case why have sport at all in so polluted an environment?

The half-marathon run was awful according to many participants, including the winner. They were forced to take many precautionary measures, like wearing masks that could filter pollutants. But many competitors said that it also restricted breathing. Thus survival rather than posting record timings became the name of the game.

Likewise, Ranji Trophy teams were conscious of the fact that they had to preserve their best players for stiffer battles in other non-polluted cities. So they just did not want to exert themselves in Delhi’s polluted atmosphere. The matches were postponed even though BCCI was livid at the decision.

Thus, while Sri Lanka might have utilised the smog as an opportunity to neutralise Viat Kohli and India, Indian sports federations must utilise this event as a wake-up call to avoid sporting encounters in Delhi. That is until the government gets serious and does something to clean up the mess.

Certainly, as far as sport is concerned, ‘Delhi Chalo!’ is a strict no-no.


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By Vipin Agnihotri With every passing day, Muslim youngsters are joining BJP. For them, the lure is a “slice of the development pie”. “There is...