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The brand of cricket we want to play is free and relaxed:  – Sangakkara

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The 2008 IPL champions employed five opening pairs in the previous edition.

As many as five opening pairs were experimented with by the Rajasthan Royals last season. Ahead of their season opener against Punjab Kings, Sanju Samson, the newly-appointed captain of the franchise says that this year around, more stability can be expected from the side that chopped and changed so much to the extent of being unable to settle on a side until much later in the tournament.

“Myself and Sanga will try to give the best combination,” said Samson on Sunday (April 11). “From my point of view, it’s crucial to give an individual or a pair of opening partners enough time in the tournament. So, I think a bit of stability will be seen in this tournament. The rest it depends on how we go.”

Much has been debated about the batting order. Whilst Jos Buttler’s record at the top speaks for itself, Ben Stokes has been their go-to man for the opening slot. With Robin Uthappa gone this year, will they persist with Stokes at the top with Yashasvi Jaiswal, or will they promote Buttler up to a position he loves? Without committing too much either way about their preferred sequence, Kumar Sangakkara, the director of cricket at the Royals said the combination will be a decision they will undertake with the “full buying of the players involved”.

“We look to finalise (combinations) later on today before we go for training and we want we want to keep our options open,” said Sangakkara. “The most important thing is that players are communicated to clearly as to what their roles are and get them to commit to it.

“What we planned to do is get a balanced side, everyone available, a full squad, try and have a consistent philosophy of cricket. The brand of cricket that we want to play is quite free and relaxed. Also in terms of preparing well and executing well… to get everyone prepared to think and to be problem-solvers. To think for themselves. It helps Sanju a lot on the field when people are thinking for themselves and know what’s going on. It builds a lot of trust within the group as well. Everyone has individual strengths that they bring into the side which are highly valued. We try and build that into a good unit where everyone knows what they’re doing, what their value is and what their roles are. Then we’ll go and try to play some good cricket.”

An overhaul in how the Royals went about their business was needed, having had finished last in 2020. Rajasthan just couldn’t crack the code of winning matches consistently and a lot of it had to do with the lack of the team striking together. There were moments of brilliance before they fell back.

“We have a lot of match-winners who are absolutely wonderful players…in Sanju Samson, Rahul Tewatia, our fast bowlers. The key is to have different people who do something a little bit special on the day and the point of a great team performance is to have your regular players performing consistently and once in a while. Someone stepping in to do a little bit extra. If it’s a different player most of the time and not the same person, it’s even better.”

Another area of concern last year was the lack of support from the contingent of pace bowlers around Jofra Archer, who was named MVP. Archer missing the first few games will be a big blow for Rajasthan. Sangakkara, however, threw his support behind the inexperienced Indian bowlers in their squad to come good.

“I think inexperience sometimes can work for you and against. Inexperience would probably mean that the opposition has not really seen them either, but fast bowling, specially in the IPL is not an easy task and we saw that yesterday as well. Sometimes the wickets are really good for batting or most of the wickets are, so you have to be quite skillful. So I’m pretty confident that our young fast bowlers will step up. We’ve had Kartik Tyagi who did very well last season in patches in various phases of the game and this year we have a new additions in Kuldip Yadav and Chetan Sakariya. So I think it’s about you know keeping them again focused on what their job is really and get them trained and prepared to execute all the different deliveries and scenarios and match plans for the opposition. But at the same time concentrate in giving them confidence of their own strengths.”

When asked if despite all his years in the game, the highs and lows, he feels pressure of expectations in his new role, Sangakkara didn’t mince his words.

“I think there are always expectations and pressure. You can’t get away from that and you got to accept it. And the only way you deal with it is really, you know ticking off the boxes that you want in terms of training, in terms of preparation, getting combinations right. Get the players involved take ownership of not their own roles, but also the team plans and that makes things a lot easier. You can’t guarantee what will happen on the day of a match, but what you can guarantee is that you can go out and control what you control. Take a great attitude out, and Sanju always talks about playing with passion and with heart. I think that’s a very important point as well. That can really lift a team to do some special things out there when the pressure is on.

“So for me personally, know my job is to get everyone ready and once they get on the field my job is actually secondary. It’s about them going out there and expressing themselves playing really good smart cricket. But we wait and see. I think everyone’s really looking forward to starting the tournament,” he added.

 

 



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Himasha’s ban extended to six years

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Himasha’s doping violation

by Reemus Fernando

The Appeals Committee of the Sri Lanka Anti-Doping Agency that heard sprinter Himasha Eshan’s appeal against his suspension, has decided to extend the ban against the former national 100 metres champion to six years.

SLADA has informed the athlete that the Appeals Committee had decided to extend the ban to six years after the appeal hearing conducted on November 3.

According to the letter sent by SLADA, Himasha will now be banned till 25th October 2027 which effectively closes the former national 100 metres record holder’s chances of competing for Sri Lanka again.

The 28-year-old was tested positive for a banned substance during a random test conducted by SLADA on October 26, 2021. The Disciplinary Committee of SLADA first banned him for four years from October 26, 2021 to October 25, 2025. That ban has now been extended by two years.It was the second time that the South Asian Games medallist has been found positive for a banned substance and he is also the only Sri Lankan athlete to be tested positive twice.

He was first found positive for a banned substances when he was 17 years old. He was slapped with a two year ban which was reduced considering his young age. The World Anti-Doping Agency introduced four years bans for first time offences in 2013. According to Anti Doping authorities any reduced terms are added to the suspension when an athlete is found positive for the second time.

This time Himasha was tested positive during a random test conducted by SLADA on October 26, 2021. The Anti-Doping authorities collected Himasha’s urine samples at the Army quarters at Narahenpita. He was involved in several impressive performances including a wind assisted 10.29 seconds feat to win the men’s 100 metres during the Army Athletics Championships which was held around that time.

Once the fastest man in the South Asian region, Himasha was coached by Chaminda Perera. He won the gold medal at the 2016 South Asian Games and set a South Asian regional record of 10.22 seconds in 2019. He was also part of Sri Lanka’s 4×100 metres team that established the current national record in the 4×100 metres relay.

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Cristiano Ronaldo, Al Nassr knocked out of Saudi Super Cup

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr were knocked of the Saudi Super Cup on Thursday after a 3-1 semifinal loss to Al Ittihad in Riyadh.The 37-year-old Portugal international, five-times Ballon D’Or winner, had a couple of chances to score but was well shackled by the Al Ittihad defence for most of the match.

Anderson Talisca’s goal for Al Nassr in the 67th minute was not enough to turn around the deficit from two first-half goals for Al Ittihad from Romarinho and Abderrazak Hamdallah.

Muhannad Al-Shanqeeti added the third three minutes into stoppage time.Al Nassr next travel to Al Fateh in the Saudi Pro League on Feb. 3.

(ESPN)

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Stefanos Tsitsipas beats Karen Khachanov to reach final of Australian Open 2023

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Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas has another chance to land his first Grand Slam title after reaching the Australian Open final by beating Russian Karen Khachanov in the Melbourne last four.Third seed Tsitsipas, 24, won 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 against Khachanov, who was going for a maiden major final.Tsitsipas lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final and might have the chance to avenge that loss.

Serbia’s Djokovic plays American Tommy Paul in Friday’s other semi-final.Tsitsipas, who will become the world number one if he wins the title, eventually booked his place after recovering from Khachanov saving two match points in the third-set tie-break.

Another tight forehand saw a third chance disappear in what proved to be the final game, before he regained his composure to convert his fourth when a first serve was batted long by the 18th seed. Asked what he was thinking when the match went into a fourth set, Tsitsipas said: “I thought about how hard I’ve worked to get to this position.

“But if you stick around, dedicate yourself even more, and concentrate even more in the important moments it pays off.”

Nine-time champion Djokovic is the favourite to face Tsitsipas and takes on the unseeded Paul, who is competing in his first major semi-final, at 08:30 GMT on Friday.

The 35-year-old former world number one has won in Melbourne every time he has reached the last four and is aiming for a record-extending 10th title which would equal Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 major men’s titles. At a tournament with a hard-court surface on which he thrives, and in a city where he is warmly backed by its large Greek population, Tsitsipas has long appeared destined for success at the Australian Open.

The towering youngster announced his arrival there with a famous 2019 win over defending champion Roger Federer in the fourth round, only for a captivating run to be ended when he was crushed by Rafael Nadal in his first semi-final appearance.

Long-time rival Daniil Medvedev ended his dreams at the last-four stage in both 2021 and 2022, with another Russian – this time, the powerful Khachanov – standing in his way this time.

Backed by a vocal crowd who waved Greek flags after virtually all of his winning points, Tsitsipas started confidently against a player who he had beaten in all of their five previous encounters.

Khachanov could not cope with Tsitsipas’ pounding ground-strokes and dynamic athleticism as the world number four moved two sets ahead.

When Tsitsipas broke early in the third set and moved into a 5-4 lead which left him serving for the match, few on Rod Laver Arena expected anything other than a straight-set win.However, nerves kicked in for Tsitsipas, who suddenly looked unsure with his ground-strokes, and Khachanov cut loose to extend the contest.

After a bathroom break before the fourth set, Tsitsipas returned free of the weight of expectation and broke Khachanov’s serve at the first opportunity.Dominant service games from that point ensured there would be no repeat of the previous set as he finally reached the final of what he calls his “home” Grand Slam event.

“I feel blessed for the fact I’m able to play tennis at this level and for many years I’ve wanted to put Greek tennis on the map – Maria [Sakkari] and I have done that, I think,” Tsitsipas said.

“Coming from a small country like Greece I feel so grateful I get support like this.

“I never thought I would be treated so well here so I’m extremely happy I’m in the final now – let’s see what happens.”

(BBC Sports)

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