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India vs Australia: India vs Australia: Aussie ‘Summer of Cricket’ begins with ‘Barefoot Circle’ in BLM support | Cricket News

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SYDNEY: Australia’s ‘Summer of Cricket‘ got underway in earnest on Friday with the first one-day international against India in front of a socially-distanced crowd of some 20,000 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
While the global health crisis had a clear impact on the staging and timing of the clash, there was recognition before the match of another of the main changes to world in the eight months since Australia last hosted international men’s cricket.
In an echo of the ‘Black Lives Matters’ movement, both teams stood in a “Barefoot Circle” on the pitch before warming up as a stand against racism and a recognition of indigenous or First Nation Australians, “the traditional owners of the land”.

There was a further moment’s silence to remember former Australia batsman Dean Jones, who died of a heart attack at the age of 59 last month, before the singing of the national anthems.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat on a glorious afternoon in Sydney, with paceman Mohammed Shami bowling the first delivery to Australian opener David Warner.
“It’s great to have cricket back and in front of some fans as well,” said Australia skipper Aaron Finch.

Australia’s only change was the return of batting stalwart Steve Smith at the expense of injured all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, while India brought Mayank Agarwal in to open in place of vice captain Rohit Sharma, who has a hamstring injury.
“He’s a really exciting player, had a great IPL (Indian Premier League),” skipper Virat Kohli said of Agarwal.
“I think it’s very important to start well for us as a team. When you come to a place like Australia, you want to set the momentum early.”

India, who play two more one-dayers before a three-match Twenty20 series and four Tests around the new year, will certainly not lack for support Down Under with the Indian diaspora well represented in the crowd on Friday.



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Olympic chief Thomas Bach calls for ‘patience’ over Tokyo Games | More sports News

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LAUSANNE: Olympic chief Thomas Bach called on Wednesday for “patience” over the Tokyo Games, the holding of which this summer are in continued doubt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Tokyo Olympics were originally to have taken place last year but were postponed in the face of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, becoming the first Games in peacetime to suffer that fate.
The IOC and the Japanese organisers rescheduled the Games for July 23 to August 8 this year.
But several media reports have claimed that the Games cannot go ahead, something an exasperated Bach was quick to play down after a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board.
“We’re not losing time or energy on speculation… about whether the Games are taking place,” IOC president Bach said.
“We’re working on how the Games will take place.
“Our task is to organise Olympic Games, not to cancel Olympic Games… and that is why we will not add fuel to this speculation.”
Bach said while the complexity of organising the Games had increased as a result of the virus, “we just have to ask for patience and understanding, is the main message”.
“I think it is too early to decide anything else,” he added.
After the last executive board meeting, the IOC released a statement on December 12, the same day the Pfizer vaccine was approved in the United States, expressing its “full commitment” to staging the Games.
Since then, the emergence of more infectious virus strains has sparked debate on whether the Games can take place and whether it is morally justifiable that competitors be prioritised for vaccination.
“We always have made it clear that we are not in favour of athletes jumping the queue,” Bach stressed.
The German said the IOC was constantly accumulating knowledge on how to organise such a huge event in exceptional circumstances.
“There is no blueprint, we’re learning every day,” Bach said.
He said he understood how people living under lockdown and perhaps unable to even visit a restaurant because of Covid-19 restrictions found it hard to envisage the Games going ahead.
“The responsibility of the (Japanese) government and the IOC is to look beyond this situation,” Bach added.
And, citing the ongoing world handball championships in Egypt — a country he said was deemed high-risk for virus infections — Bach said it was right for the IOC to continue looking to hold the Games.
“We are able and in a position to offer relevant counter-measures,” he said.
“If we would think it wasn’t responsible, or the Games could not be safe, we would not go for it.”
Bach also announced the release of the first version of a “playbook” explaining the “many measures we can imagine to be applied in July and August in Tokyo”.
The document, he said, was “a huge undertaking under daily review” and covered essential issues such as immigration, potential quarantines, transportation in Tokyo, living in the Olympic Village and social distancing.
Officials have long floated the idea that the Games could go ahead without spectators.
It is an idea many sportspeople have backed, as long as they get a tilt at an Olympic medal.
“I want fans to be there, but the most important thing for a player is for the event to go ahead and be able to play,” Japanese table tennis star Mima Ito told AFP.
Australia and Canada — who both pulled their teams before the initial postponement of the Games last year — and the United States have come out in support of the rescheduled Olympics.
Greek pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi — who led calls for last year’s postponement — has said she would prefer the Olympics to be held with no fans than not at all.
Top US gymnast Simone Biles said the decision had to be based on “what’s safe for the world”, but added she was “hoping the Olympics can be put on, even if it means we’re in a bubble”.
But Japanese gymnastics star Kohei Uchimura sounded a note of caution, saying the event “can’t be held if the athletes and the people don’t feel the same way”.


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Manchester United title hopes hit by Sheffield United defeat | Football News

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MANCHESTER: Sheffield United put a huge dent in Manchester United‘s Premier League title ambitions on Wednesday, beating Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s off-key side 2-1 at Old Trafford.
United knew they had to respond after Manchester City leapfrogged them at the summit with a 5-0 hammering of West Brom on Tuesday but they were well short of their best on a frustrating night.
The result leaves them on 40 points — one point behind City — but Pep Guardiola’s side now have a game in hand and are looking relentless.
United were sloppy in possession from the start at Old Trafford against the bottom-placed visitors, who had won just one league match in the entire campaign.
The home side dominated possession in the initial stages and Marcus Rashford had an early shot but they were short of ideas against the battling away team.

The Blades broke the deadlock midway through the first half when Kean Bryan rose to glance home John Fleck’s corner after David de Gea failed to punch clear.
Billy Sharp appeared to nudge the Spanish goalkeeper from behind but the goal was allowed to stand.
Manchester United had the ball in the net after half an hour’s play but Anthony Martial’s effort did not count because referee Peter Bankes had already blown his whistle for a foul by Harry Maguire on goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
United lacked urgency as the first period wore on, struggling to get behind Chris Wilder’s organised back line.
Bruno Fernandes fashioned half a chance for United when he ran beyond the last line of defence and hooked the ball back but Martial could not get enough purchase on the header.
The home side tried to step up a gear at the start of the second half but still lacked sharpness in their passing, with Rashford off the pace.
Mason Greenwood, who scored in United’s FA Cup win against Liverpool on Sunday, snatched at a chance after a fine through ball from Fernandes.
United were now showing more urgency but David McGoldrick went close to doubling Sheffield United’s lead with a clever effort with the outside of his right foot.
Solskjaer’s men were level in the 64th minute when an outswinging corner from Alex Telles was met with a thumping header by Maguire past the diving Ramsdale.
Edinson Cavani replaced Greenwood moments later as United looked to turn the screw.
But Sheffield United were back in front again in the 74th minute when Manchester United failed to clear and Oliver Burke’s strike took a wicked deflection off Axel Tuanzebe and went in off the underside of the bar.
Solskjaer threw on Luke Shaw and Donny van de Beek as United desperately sought an equaliser but they had to face the intense frustration of three dropped points.



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BCCI hoping to get in fans at Motera, Pune | Cricket News

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NEW DELHI: The Indian cricket board (BCCI) is looking to get fans back at the stadiums in Ahmedabad and Pune for games against England during February and March.
BCCI had approached the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) to allow fans (50 percent of the capacity) for the first two Test matches. TNCA, however, turned down the proposal as it didn’t want to take any chance. The first Test begins on February 5.
Sources told TOI that BCCI is confident of getting fans in for the last two Tests and five T20Is at the revamped Motera stadium in Ahmedabad and the three ODIs in Pune. “The board has been in talks with the two concerned association. It is very likely that these venues will see cricket being played with fans in the stands once all the clearances from the health authorities are attained,” a senior BCCI official said.
TOI understands that the BCCI is keen to host the first international fixtures at the revamped Motera with some fanfare. The capacity is yet to be finalized. Since the Motera now has a capacity of one lakh spectators, BCCI may think of going for less than 50 per cent of the capacity. It is learnt that a maximum of around 25000 to 30000 people will be allowed at the ground.
Chief selector enters Chennai bubble with India, England teams
India and England teams have reached Chennai for the first two Tests of the series. It is also learnt that India’s new chief selector, Chetan Sharma has also entered the bubble. The teams will be in quarantine for five days and get to train only three days ahead of the first Test. The Indian team management will hold virtual team meetings to devise strategy for the series. Sharma is likely to have a couple of meetings with the team management and captain Virat Kohli to discuss the way forward.


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