Carried a pink ball in my kit bag for last three months, don’t know why: Mandhana

India opener Smriti Mandhana familiarised herself with the pink ball by keeping one in her kit bag for the last three months, looking at it on and off while trying to “understand” it.

When the idea struck her, little did Mandhana know that her team would enter its first-ever day/night Test match with just two days of training sessions with the pink ball.

The idea to keep the coloured ball around her worked well for the stylish player, who was batting on a sublime 80 when inclement weather brought an early end to the opening day of their historic Test, against a formidable Australian side here.

India opener Smriti Mandhana familiarised herself with the pink ball by keeping one in her kit bag for the last three months, looking at it on and off while trying to “understand” it.

When the idea struck her, little did Mandhana know that her team would enter its first-ever day/night Test match with just two days of training sessions with the pink ball.

The idea to keep the coloured ball around her worked well for the stylish player, who was batting on a sublime 80 when inclement weather brought an early end to the opening day of their historic Test, against a formidable Australian side here.

“We just had two sessions with pink ball. I was coming from the Hundred (in England) so I didn’t really get much time to play with pink ball, but during Hundred, I just ordered a pink kookaburra ball, just to keep it in my room because I knew that there is going to be a Test match, so that I can just look at the ball and understand.

“I have actually not batted, I batted for just two sessions but the pink ball was there in my kit bag for last two and half, three months. I don’t know why did I carry it, I thought I will have a session but I really didn’t get time to do that,” Mandhana said during a virtual press conference on Thursday.

Mandhana headlined a rain-hit opening day with a career-best knock which had elegance written all over it as the Indian women’s cricket team finished on 132 for 1.

Speaking further on her preparation for the pink ball Test, she said, “I don’t think we had a lot of time to work regarding this, we are just trying. People who are sitting out really helped, they kept me pumped up throughout the day, they contributed in making me focus in the way I did today,” Mandhana said.

The Indian star said her plan was to just play as per merit and not over complicate things.

“I wanted that I just don’t look at the scorecard, was just trying to be as blank and simple, play according to the ball. I didn’t really plan anything.

“Last two days I felt good, felt I was able to bat well. I will try and do that tomorrow because I don’t want to complicate things.”

She is also not thinking about a century, focussing only on batting as well as she can to help the team notch up a good first-innings score.

“Not thinking about triple figure at the moment, the team needs me to bat well and in the process If I get one… I am just watching the ball and reacting.”

Mandhana is relishing being part of a multi-format tour of a tough cricket-playing nation such as Australia.

“I am loving this multi format series, go and bat with few slips and gully so you have to apply yourself, that really tests you.. You have to focus .. switch on and switch off,” she said.

“Test cricket is always about different challenges and we would always want to play as may Tests as possible.”

Hosts Australia decided to put India in to bat after winning the toss but did not enjoy a good start to the game.

“They bowled slightly short in the first 15 overs but made up in the latter stages.
We are used to batting first now but with the kind of wicket it looked like we also would have batted first. But, looking at the scoreboard now, we are happy to bat first.

“The openers have to step up and provide a good base whenever this kind of conditions come up,” Mandhana said.

A strong player on the back foot, Mandhana said batting on matting wickets in her early days contributed to it.

“I think with India being so vast we have different ways of growing up. I played a lot of cricket on matting till I was 15, it bounces a lot more on that.”

She lavished praise on her younger opening partner Shafali Verma (31), with whom Mandhana put on 93 runs for the first wicket.

“In England we had 150-odd run partnership. We just try and back each other, we have good conversations. She was really batting well on this wicket.”

Mandhana seemed to have slowed down in the latter stages of the day but that had nothing to do with the breaks brought on by lightning and rain.

“It was more to do with the field placements and not breaks.”

Australia skipper Meg Lanning admitted that her team could not make most of the conditions.

“I think we bowled a touch too short and allowed them to play a bit more on the back foot. We took a while to adjust to the conditions. We have got a good plan heading into tomorrow and just got to execute them,” Lanning said.

She praised Mandhana for showing “excellent temperament while hitting the bad balls and defending the good ones”.

“She has played extremely well so far, showed how to adapt to this format. But we feel we are still in the game.”

Merely listening to Ricky Ponting’s dressing room speech gives you goosebumps: Avesh

When Ricky Ponting speaks, all Avesh Khan does is listen to the former Australian captain with rapt attention.

The Delhi Capitals fast bowler, who has taken 18 wickets from 11 games, has been in good form during this season and he feels that his head coach inputs on cricket as well as the mental aspect of the game, helped him evolve as a player.

“It is my fourth year with Ricky sir and I can say that he has been a legendary player and an equally great coach. He talks about the mental aspect of the game. Just listening to him in the dressing room gives me goosebumps. He has an open mind and you can discuss anything you wish with him,” Avesh told PTI Bhasha in an interview.

His toe-crushing yorkers has earned praise from none other than world’s fastest bowler Anrich Nortje, who wants to understand how he is so consistent with that kind of an effort ball.

Well, Avesh revealed that his process of fine-tuning blockhole deliveries is no different from other speed merchants who also either keep a shoe or a handkerchief at the front-crease.

“I always try to practice as much as yorkers at the nets. It is a wicket-taking delivery and one can bring perfection with practice only. I use a bottle or cone or even my shoe for that. When the ball hits the target, it enhances my confidence too ,” said the Indore lad, who is enjoying a breakthrough season in IPL.

“It is very important to land perfect yorkers in pressure situations at it is the only delivery which can save a bowler from getting punished by the batter. I always try to welcome the new batter with a perfectly executed yorker,” he added.

Happy with his performance in the current IPL season Avesh is aiming to maintain this form to help Delhi Capitals winning their maiden title.

“It has been a dream-like journey so far. I started playing Cricket as a hobby and was always very passionate about the game. When I used to play with a tennis ball in Indore , I had never thought of coming so far,’ said the former India U-19 pacer, who was in the reserves during the tour of England before a fracture cut short his tour.

With Kagiso Rabada, Nortje and Avesh in their armoury, Delhi Capitals have one of the strongest fast bowling attacks in IPL 2021 and all three of them are eager to learn and feed from each other’s success.
“I have been learning a lot from them. I keep asking them about the pitch, which bowl will work for a particular batter or what to bowl in a particular situation. Our focus remains on working as a unit , not on individual performances,” he said.

He was first spotted by former cricketer Amay Khurasia , his mentor, at an MPCA trial at the age of 13. The Indore quick had been a regular feature in the India A sides . His Ranji coach Chandrakant Pandit also helped him to improve and till now he speaks to him before or after every match.

He also sought advice from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has always been an inspiration for small-town boys who have made it big in cricket.

“Mahi bhai has inspired a lot of youngsters . I also wanted to play under his captaincy. I spoke to him after the match against CSK and he told me many things about the game which I will always follow,” said the pacer who also took Dhoni’s wicket in the previous match and called it ‘ dream wicket’.

Koeman’s job in danger before Barcelona visit Atletico Madrid

Ronald Koeman needs his Barcelona side to win big when it visits Atletico Madrid to have a shot at saving his job.

That is, if he makes it to Saturday.

Two embarrassing losses to start the Champions League have left the Dutch coach under extreme pressure before a trip to the capital to face the Spanish league’s titleholder.

Losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich, a European juggernaut, two weeks ago was humbling. But to follow that up with another 3-0 loss at Benfica, a team it had not lost to since 1961, on Wednesday may be too much for the club’s leadership to take.

Koeman spoke after the match in Lisbon like a man who knew his time at Camp Nou could be counted in days, if not hours.

“As for my future, I cannot say anything because I don’t know what the club thinks about it,” Koeman said. “It is not in my hands. We will see . . . at the end, the guilty party is the coach.”

Club president Joan Laporta and Koeman have been at odds since Laporta returned to run the club last March. Laporta went as far as to look for another coach in the offseason before finally settling on keeping Koeman for the second year of his contract.

Laporta and Koeman have shared the need to convince Barcelona’s fans to lower expectations since the club was saddled with over a billion euros in debt and unable to pay Lionel Messi’s wages. But the team has hit new lows that even with the exit of the almighty Messi are difficult to take.

A sixth-place standing in the Spanish league has almost become respectable for the former champions compared to its dismal showing in the Champions League.

Barcelona is in last place of Group E and at risk of not making the knockout rounds for the first time in 20 years. Most worryingly, a Barcelona team that prides itself on always delivering attacking soccer has not even generated a shot on target in 180 minutes.

Never shy to point out his team’s shortcomings, nor spare his players from what he considers just criticism, Koeman spread some of the blame.

“Everyone knows the problem of Barcelona today,” he said. “The team is not the same as it was for years. We saw that in today’s game. It is crystal clear. We have lost players who made the difference . . . I am not saying that we have to accept it or that I have no responsibility, but in today’s game we should have gotten more from our players.”

Koeman’s tactics against Benfica, however, were also questionable. Instead of replacing Gerard Pique with another defender when he picked up an early yellow card, Koeman shifted Frenkie de Jong into his backline. Barcelona suffered even more trying to set up its forwards without De Jong in a creative role.

When asked if he thought the team needed a new manager, De Jong responded with a curt “No.”

“You can only get out of this situation if you stay united and work together,” the Netherlands midfielder said.

Atletico was having its own troubles before Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez, both former Barcelona players the club could not afford to pay, scored late to fight back 2-1 at AC Milan on Tuesday.

The match at Wanda Metropolitano will come before a weeklong international break, offering Barcelona a window to make a coaching change if desired.

Former midfielder Xavi Hernandez has long been tagged as a future Barcelona coach, while Spanish media speculates that Belgium manager Roberto Martinez and former Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo could be in the running. Laporta said during his presentation this summer that sports director Jordi Cruyff could also be used as a “wild card in an emergency.”

Beyond the team’s immediate struggles, Barcelona was dealt a harder long-term blow by the Spanish league hours before it lost at Benfica.

Barcelona’s new salary cap has been slashed to 97 million euros ($113 million), about 285 million euros ($334 million) less than a year ago and seven times smaller than that of Real Madrid, due to losses it incurred by the poor management of Laporta’s predecessors and the economic impact of the pandemic.

So Koeman or not, the glory days of Barcelona won’t likely be coming back soon.

IPL to have simultaneous games on last day of league stage

For the first time, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is going to experiment with two matches played simultaneously at different venues. This will take place on the last day of the league stage of the ongoing tournament.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has agreed to such a request from official broadcaster Star India. The Indian Express understands that the board discussed the matter during the IPL Governing Council meeting a few days ago where a decision was taken to go ahead with the idea.

Hence, on the last day of the league stage of the ongoing season, instead of one afternoon match and one evening game, two matches will be held at the same time in the evening at two venues.

The rationale behind Star’s request is the lower TRP of afternoon games.

“In a first for the IPL, the last two league matches before the VIVO IPL 2021 Playoffs will be played concurrently. On the last day of the league stage (08.10.2021) of the ongoing season, instead of having one afternoon match and one evening match, two matches (SRH v MI and RCB v DC) will be played simultaneously at 7.30 PM IST (6.00 PM GST),” BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in a press release.

A BCCI official later revealed that broadcasters aren’t getting high TRP (Television Rating Points) for afternoon matches.

“The official broadcaster had asked BCCI whether they can have two games simultaneously in two different venues. The broadcasters have informed us that TRP for afternoon games is less compared to evening games. The BCCI can experiment with having two games simultaneously. As Star has multiple channels under their banner, they can provide live telecast of two games smoothly. So, BCCI has agreed to the request,” the board official told The Indian Express.

It is learnt that BCCI will take feedback from Star after the two games about the TRP generated. As the board is planning to have two new IPL teams next year, this could help it to conduct more games in fewer days. Till now, the BCCI had few double headers in the IPL, which made it tough for the cricketers given the harsh Indian summers.

“This could help us in our scheduling going ahead, as two new teams means more games. The BCCI will decide if such norms can be continued ahead,” the official added.

IPL 2021: Knights make Capital gains

Five dot balls brought about a well-set Shubman Gill’s dismissal and a wicket-maiden for Kagiso Rabada. Then, Ravichandran Ashwin made one hang a bit more in the air and spin away to settle the score with Eoin Morgan. The two had got into a heated exchange after Ashwin was dismissed during the Delhi Capitals innings. The latter bellowed a ‘come on’ in the Kolkata Knight Riders captain’s face after getting his man.

KKR’s run rate suddenly slipped below six runs per over, but chasing 128 for victory they basically needed two good overs from thereon. Nitish Rana hit two sixes in a Lalit Yadav over and although the excellent Avesh Khan (3/13) saw off Dinesh Karthik, Sunil Narine laid into Rabada with two sixes and a four to take his team to a three-wicket victory, which consolidated KKR’s position in the top four.

Rishabh Pant’s bowling selections – not using Anrich Nortje’s pace straightaway against Narine and using up his spinners early – was questionable. At the same time, the DC skipper didn’t have enough runs to defend.

The Sharjah sticky dog, or sandy-dog based on one’s preference, was an antidote to DC’s cricketing style. The ball never came on to the bat and the slowness of the pitch took the sting out of their fast bowlers.

The Powerplay was the key for DC to build the platform for a big total. Without Prithvi Shaw, out injured, they missed aggression upfront. Steve Smith’s conventional cricket held up one end, but it didn’t put the KKR bowlers under much pressure. Shreyas Iyer could have raised the tempo, but Narine had reserved a beauty for him.

Daniel Maldini: Like grandfather, like father, like son

The Maldini name has been synonymous with AC Milan and a new chapter was scripted in the rich history of the family with the Italian giants. Daniel Maldini, son of Paolo Maldini, scored on his first start for his father and grandfather’s club.

The Maldini line continues

The 19-year old, fresh from the club’s youth academy is Paolo’s second son and plays as an attacking midfielder. “The coach told me yesterday (Friday) that I was starting, he showed me what we were doing at set-pieces so I realised that I would be in the starting XI,” said Daniel to DAZN.

The set-piece training would work as Maldini opened the scoring with a powerful header against Spezia two minutes into the second half. Cameras caught his father celebrating emotionally after the goal.

“He’s demanding, rightly so, but he helps me out,” said Maldini junior. “He’s my dad.” Paolo is currently the technical director at Milan and Daniel joined the club’s youth setup right after his father had retired.

He has been with the club since 2010, has two appearances each for Italy’s U18 and U19 teams. Before this game, Daniel was being slowly introduced through substitutions into the game until his first start on Friday.

Trophy history

Maldini and Milan is a partnership that has been going on since 1954. Cesare Maldini started his career with Italian club Triestina before making the switch. Once at Milan, he led the team to four Serie A titles and one European Cup in 12 years at the club.

International, Cesare earnt 14 caps for Italy and was part of the team in the 1962 World Cup. He captained both club and country.

After retiring in 1967, Cesare then went on to coach Milan twice, and Foggia and Parma as well. But his success as a manager was far more on the international level. Cesare was the three-time winner of the European Under-21 championship as coach of the Italy u21 team. He then coached the Italian senior men’s team at the 1998 World Cup and then the Paraguay WC team during the 2002 event.

Until then, it felt like senior Maldini’s record was untouchable, but then came Paolo.

RCB vs MI: Virat Kohli goes past 10,000 T20 runs

Virat Kohli on Sunday reached a coveted milestone of 10,000-run mark in all forms of T20 cricket (international, domestic and franchise) during Royal Challengers Bangalore’s IPL match against Mumbai Indians at the Dubai International Stadium.

Playing in his 314th T20 contest, Kohli pulled his India team-mate Jasprit Bumrah for a six to get the milestone in the fourth over after RCB were sent in to bat.

Kohli, who is set to step down from RCB captaincy at the end of this season, had come into the match 13 short of 10,000 runs.

The 32-year-old has played 298 innings before Sunday’s match and has scored runs at an average of 41.61 with the help of five hundreds and 73 fifties. His highest individual score was 113. His career strike-rate has been an impressive 134 plus.

Building more inclusive, welcoming schools for LGBTQ+ children

Earlier this month, while speaking at the Shiksha Parv conclave, the prime minister emphasised the need for inclusive and equitable education. In the same week, the Kerala High Court brought attention to medical textbooks that described non-binary gender identities as “offensive perversions” and “mental disorders”. This had continued despite Kerala becoming the first state to adopt a transgender policy six years ago. A similar concern over “queerphobia” in medical education was raised by the Madras HC earlier this year.

Fitness alert: Start your yoga journey with these easy tips

Yoga is often considered to be all about tough, limb-twisting poses. But, yoga expert Abhishek Otwal says that it is not about “touching your toes, or stretching 98 degrees to your northeast”, rather an easy process of uniting with yourself – “using your breath, body, and mind“.

The expert adds that it does not matter if you’re not flexible or are starting your yoga journey at the age of 40. “This fitness journey will bring much joy and relaxation to you,” he says.

As such, he shares some easy tips for beginners

*Warm up – Gentle warm up exercises help the body to loosen up and prepare it for the asanas. Rotate your neck, both clockwise and anticlockwise, and pump your shoulders to relieve any stiffness and shrug off the lethargy.

*Although it’s best to practice yoga early in the morning, but any time of the day is fine as long as you are regular with it. “Don’t feel pressurised and over-exert your body right in the beginning. Your flexibility and efficiency will improve with everyday practice. Always finish with Yoga Nidra (sleep meditation) for a few minutes, as it helps to cool down the body,” he suggests.

*Whenever you start with yoga, try to start with easy asanas and postures such as downward-facing dog, tree pose, child’s pose, and savasana. “In each pose, try to focus on pressing your hands or feet into the floor, lengthening your spine, and relaxing your hips. If you keep this in mind as you practice, you will be working with every pose exactly as the most devoted practitioners do. There is no need to rush or try to jump into more complex poses,” he adds.

*Always practice yoga on an empty stomach or at least 2-3 hours after your last meal. When practicing yoga, you are much more in tune with your body’s subtle feelings than at any other point, and practicing with food in the stomach inevitably leads to discomfort and feeling unwell. “Eating just before practicing can lead to feeling of heaviness, and can disrupt the digestion process as well. It is also advised to drink at least three to four liters of water during the day in order to flush toxins that are released while practicing out of the body,” he says.

*Breathing plays an important role in yoga as the practice is all about finding a healthier, deeper harmony between our body and mind, and breathing is central to this.

*It’s always best to start doing yoga under the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher who can guide you through the correct way of doing each and every technique. This would help you learn yoga asanas properly and avoid injuries.

Xiaomi Mi Band 6 review: Still the best fitness band in the market?

When it comes to tracking daily steps and basic fitness, the Mi Band remains one of the most reliable options in the market. The latest Mi Band 6 builds on this with some big changes. For one, it has a higher price tag at Rs 3,499 compared to the Rs 2,499 tag of the Mi Band 5. Second, it now comes with a bigger 1.56-inch display compared to the 1.1-inch display on the earlier band. Finally, it adds an important change in the form of support for blood oxygen monitoring, which has become a much sought-after feature in the time of Covid-19.

But do the changes justify the higher price? And what makes the Mi Band 6 a better pick compared to the countless fitness trackers and watches in the market? Let’s take a look in our review

Xiaomi Mi Band 6 review: What’s good?

When I first saw the Mi Band 6 and it was hard not to notice the larger screen. The AMOLED display with 326 pixels per inch (PPI) and a maximum brightness of 450 nits is legible even in harsh sunlight. In fact, I would say the display is a bit too bright, especially if you plan on wearing this for sleep tracking.

But the bigger display also means that the Mi Band 6 is now a little bit more suited to display notifications from messaging apps such as WhatsApp. It’s not perfect, and the text is still small, but this definitely adds more usefulness to the device. The Mi Band 6 is now compatible with the Xiaomi Wear app, which was powering fitness watches from the brand.

Users can go into the Xiaomi Wear app and turn on phone notifications, app notifications, etc for them to appear on the device. Mi Band 6 of course connects with Mi Fit app and now the Strava app as well. It is also capable of auto-detecting six fitness modes, including walking, running, cycling, indoor rowing, and elliptical.

The band’s setup now includes a SPO2 monitor for tracking blood oxygen levels. Just make sure you wear the band tightly and stay still when measuring these. The two three times I used this feature, my blood oxygen levels were usually 98-99 per cent, so I’m guessing this works accurately.

As always with steps, the Mi Band 6 remains accurate, and if I may say so, a bit stingy. I did not notice any jump in steps (maybe 3-4) while sitting in a car. The band’s step count was bang on, especially on days where I knew I had not been very active. And the band figured out when I had started walking, as the auto-detect feature worked spot on. Though it usually detected around 5-10 minutes I had started walking.

By the way, if the auto-detect does come on, and you’re not really in the middle of a workout, say you had just stepped out for grocery shopping, you can choose an option for the band to ignore these and turn off auto-detect for an hour or so.

The Mi Band 6 can latch onto your phone’s GPS systems and detect the directions when you are walking or out on a run. Though, you will then need to take your phone along. If you don’t take the phone, then the GPS routes are not recorded.

The two-three walks I took with the Mi Band 6 were pretty accurate. Another feature I really appreciated was that the band would immediately pause if and when I took a break during exercise or walk. I was mighty impressed by the accuracy given this is still a budget fitness tracker.

I also took the Mi Band 6 for my outdoor cycle rides, and here’s where I faced some issues. But the band was accurate when it came to distance, elevation during the cycle ride. I also used the band to track indoor cycling sessions, and while it does not show any distance, the calories burnt were in line with what my cycle was showing.

The fitness band is swim-proof and water-resistant. I have not been able to take it for a swim, but I often wore it during baths, and it continues to work fine. The band’s sleep tracker remains accurate as always, one of the best in the business. For instance, when I slept at 1.30 am recently, and woke up early, the band has marked that day as ‘lack of sleep’ and I would wholly agree 100 percent.

The fitness band can also track menstrual cycles for women as well. One can add the dates of their last period and average cycle duration to the Xiaomi Wear app to see the prediction. The band will also reflect when your period is about to happen, ovulation days, etc. It also comes with stress monitoring, breathing exercises for those who wish to use such features.