Wasim Akram named brand ambassador for 10PL tournament in Sharjah

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Former Pakistan pacer Wasim Akram was yesterday named as the brand ambassador of 10PL which will be played in the UAE later this year.

The second edition of the week-long tennis-ball cricket competition will be held at Sharjah Cricket Stadium from 8-15 December.

One of the sport’s greatest legends Akram, 51, played a key part for his national team, taking more than 900 international wickets in his 18-year career from 1985-2003.

Akram said: “I am delighted to be the ambassador of the 10PL cricket tournament.

“All of us in the subcontinent have grown up playing tennis ball cricket on the streets. Some of us have learnt key tricks that have helped us on the bigger stage as well. This tournament promises to be the perfect platform for raw talents to showcase what they are capable. I am really looking forward to this competition.”

Abdul Latif Khan, chairman, Petromann Events, which is the brainchild of the tournament, is delighted to have Akram, a 1992 World Cup winner, on board.

“It is an absolute honour to have Mr Akram as the brand ambassador of the Indian team,” he said.

“In the coming days we will be unveiling a campaign with Mr Akram to further raise the profile of the tournament.”

Last year’s edition attracted a total of 16 teams and there has already been a lot of demand for the 2017 tournament with nearly 40 sides expressing interest for the available 20 spots.

The event is also expected to attract teams from a number of major corporate companies.

Among the players who are expected to feature in the competition are two former Sri Lankan Test cricketers – Chamara Silva and Thilan Thushara.

It would be the second time ex-internationals will play after former Pakistan wicket-keeper batsman Zulqarnain Haider participated in the inaugural tournament.

With a prize fund of Dh250,000, Khan is confident this year’s competition will be even bigger than 2016.

“This format is very popular in India & Middle East. Last year we showed that there had never been an event of this magnitude held anywhere in the world with such a huge prize money on offer,” he said.

“I am confident that the second edition will reach even bigger heights.”

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Shikhar Dhawan, Abhinav Mukund’s knocks put focus back on India’s replacement policy

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India completed a clinical win at Galle.

Shikhar Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund had a very good Galle Test. Dhawan celebrated his return to the Test side with a belligerent 190 that took just 168 balls and had traces of his debut knock against Australia in Mohali in 2013 where he hit 187.

Mukund improved his game as the match wore on, first affecting a run out and then taking a fine catch at short leg in the Sri Lankan first innings before putting his head down and grinding out 81 as India put up a 550-run target.

The opening combination, which was one of the few areas of concern for the Indians going into the first Test, worked out like a charm. But it wasn’t supposed to be like that.

The Indians looked set to field KL Rahul and Murali Vijay at the top of the order in Sri Lanka. But Vijay didn’t recover from the wrist injury that had kept him out of action since the series against Australia in March. So Dhawan (right) was named as his replacement after his stupendous showing in England during the Champions Trophy in June. Mukund was the back-up opener in the squad and once Rahul contracted flu and was declared unfit to play, both Dhawan and Mukund got their opportunity to put on the India jersey.

So India now face the same ‘problem’ that has cropped up a couple of times in that past – how to handle the replacements?

India have had a clear-cut plan as far as first-choice players are concerned. Whenever a player proves his fitness, he walks right back into the team irrespective of what his replacement has done.

It’s the reason why Karun Nair had to make way for Ajinkya Rahane for the Bangladesh Test in February despite scoring a triple ton against England in the previous match.

It’s also the reason why Wriddhiman Saha got the wicketkeeping gloves as soon as he regained fitness after being ruled out of the last three Tests against England due to tendinitis. He was replaced by Parthiv Patel, who scored two fifties and 42, and also kept well.

The Indian management, which included Anil Kumble as head coach at the time, had made it clear that first-choice players will get to play when fit.
“It’s a great plus for the players. Because after an injury hiatus, when someone makes a comeback, if he is clearly told “as and when you recover, you will be back in the team”, the individual gets more motivated and that reflects in his performance,” Saha had said after returning to the side for the Bangladesh Test.

That means Dhawan and Mukund will most likely be benched once Rahul and Vijay are fully fit. Or India will have to drop a bowler to accommodate one of the two, most probably Dhawan. Remember, a batsman like Rohit Sharma is still out of the team.

The existing policy was pushed by Kumble who wanted clear guidelines for players when it came to proving fitness and returning to the team.

And if Ravi Shastri too gives it his stamp of approval, India will sport a familiar look when all players are fit. It’s good for the team environment but no doubt a bitter pill to swallow for the player.

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From leadership to opening combination, it's about second chances for India in first Test

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Virat Kohli will have a point or two to prove.

India begin the three-Test series against Sri Lanka in Galle today with a spring in their step. Virat Kohli’s side sits at the top of the ICC Test rankings with wins in their last seven series. Two out of the last three Test series wins were especially sweet for the Indians as England were blanked 4-0 at home and the Aussies were overpowered 2-1 after a heavy defeat in the first match.

However, it all concluded by March. Indian players then got busy with the IPL, lost the final of the Champions Trophy, won the ODI series in the Caribbean and lost a one-off T20 against the Windies. Then there was the drama surrounding the exit of Anil Kumble as head coach and return of Ravi Shastri as ‘friend and an elder buddy’ – as the BCCI stated in its press release.

The focus now shifts to the field. For India, it will be about second chances.

It is an opportunity for the Kohli-Shastri combination to get back together following the now seemingly unnecessary Anil Kumble stint, and mould the team the way they want to.

Let’s not forget, India’s rise to the No1 spot in Tests started in their last tour of Sri Lanka in 2015 when they rallied to win the series 2-1. It was the first series win for Kohli as captain and Shastri was in charge as team director.

Also, this a golden chance for a couple of Test hopefuls to have a go at the top of the order.

India’s regular Test openers Murali Vijay and KL Rahul are unavailable for the first Test. Vijay has not recovered completely from his wrist injury that had kept him out of action since the series against Australia in March. And Rahul has not recovered from a bout of fever. He too was making a comeback after a four-month injury (shoulder) lay off.

In their absence, Shikhar Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund will look to mark their territory in what has been a period a turmoil in Indian cricket, on and off the field.

When Rahul failed to regain fitness in time for the Champions Trophy, Dhawan stepped up and took the tournament by storm, scoring two fifties and one century in England.

Dhawan was named as replacement for Vijay after being initially overlooked for the Sri Lanka tour. With Rahul unavailable, Dhawan and Mukund can realistically look to make a long-lasting impact.

Both Rahul and Vijay have been away from the scene for a long time and all it takes is one brilliant series – like Dhawan had in the Champions Trophy – for the selectors and management to push the challengers up the pecking order.

Sri Lanka, on their part, are struggling to keep their head above water.

Angelo Mathews resigned as Test captain. His replacement Dinesh Chandimal has been ruled out of the first Test due to flu, which means the burden on spinner Rangana Herath will only increase as the stand-in captain is also the team’s main bowler.

Herath will turn 40 soon and one wonders what will happen to the struggling Sri Lankans once he leaves. But that’s a question for another day.

On paper, India are fitter and more balanced than Sri Lanka with a much better record in recent Tests; Sri Lanka lost to Bangladesh in March and had to fight tooth and nail to defeat Zimbabwe this month.

But nothing is easy in Test cricket and for India, the leadership and opening combinations will be eager to prove a point or two.

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