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Defending champion Osaka doesn't feel like 'top player'

Published in Tennis
Saturday, 18 January 2020 00:35

Two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka says she still does not see herself as a "top player" despite preparing to defend her Australian Open title next week.

The 22-year-old, who won her first major at the US Open in 2018, is seeded third in Melbourne.

"It's funny, you guys tell me this top player thing and I never really see it like that," said Osaka.

The Japanese starts against unseeded Czech Marie Bouzkova on Monday.

Osaka's maiden Grand Slam victory in New York was the standout moment of her rapid rise in 2018.

She won her first WTA title at Indian Wells in March and, on the back of her US Open win, climbed into the world's top five after being ranked 72nd in January.

"I still feel like Indian Wells was two weeks ago, 2018 Indian Wells. It's really weird," said a smiling Osaka, who became the first player since American Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to follow her maiden Grand Slam win immediately with another triumph when she claimed last year's Australian Open in Melbourne.

But she was unable to match those heights during the rest of 2019, which she describes as the toughest year of her life as she struggled to cope with the expectation her previous results had created.

"I guess just before everything (the success), if I lost it wouldn't be an article. Now if I lose there's news. It was tough adjusting to that," she said.

"I think I'm definitely more relaxed now compared to the US Open.

"I learned a lot there, just in a way of handling my nerves and what to expect. I'm glad I was able to experience everything that I experienced.

"I think heading into this tournament, I'll be more prepared."

Wozniacki 'calm' as she prepares for final tournament

Denmark's former world number one Caroline Wozniacki is approaching the Australian Open "like any other tournament" as she prepares to bring a distinguished career to a close.

The 29-year-old, who won her first Grand Slam at the 2018 tournament in Melbourne, is retiring after the event, saying she wants to "achieve other things in life".

She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis last year, which she says was not the reason behind her decision to retire, although she wants to "work on" the autoimmune disease which causes pain and inflammation in joints post-playing.

The world number 35 has also enrolled at Harvard Business School and says she has a "slam packed" diary over the next six months.

Her plans include going skiing with her family, a couple of "girls trips" and a belated honeymoon with her husband David, the former NBA basketball star who she married in June last year.

"I've done everything I could to prepare as well as I can for this tournament, then hope for the best," said Wozniacki, who is unseeded and plays American Kristie Ahn in the first round.

"So far I'm calm and just enjoying myself. I'm sure once the last ball is hit, it's going to be a bit emotional."

Roger Federer says he could not have "gone on court and told people to stop" when poor air quality affected players in Australian Open qualifying.

Bushfires in Australia have caused air pollution issues and several lower-ranked players criticised the top stars for not publicly supporting them.

Swiss great Federer said he spoke to tournament officials, telling them they needed to communicate better.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner said: "I don't think I can do more than I did."

The 38-year-old world number three, who has won six Australian Open titles, added: "We all care for one another. I told them communication is key for all of us, for everybody.

"We just need to do more because I feel like I hadn't got enough information."

Fires have been raging in Australia since September, killing at least 28 people, destroying thousands of homes and scorching millions of acres of land.

Spanish top seed Rafael Nadal says he also spoke to Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley and was "convinced" by the reassurances given that players would be taken off court if air quality experts deemed it was unhealthy to compete in.

Slovenia's Dalila Jakupovic had to be helped off court when she retired from her qualifying match on Tuesday because of the air quality.

British player Liam Broady said having to play his first-round qualifier on the same day "made his blood boil", adding he was "gasping for air" as he lost to Belarusian Ilya Ivashka.

People in Melbourne were advised to stay indoors and keep pets inside on Tuesday.

Australian Open organisers have since confirmed matches will be suspended if the level of air quality goes above 200 on the PM2.5 measure they are using.

This information was made public for the first time on Thursday evening, with the players only receiving the information in an email sent out on Wednesday night - described by Broady as "a slap in the face".

Federer said a lot of players were left confused on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"So what can I do? I can go to the office, speak to them. I went to them the first day when it was bad on Tuesday, the next day on Wednesday when it was still bad," he added.

"Can I go on court and say, Everybody stop play? I can try. I don't think that's going to do much."

Tiley said the tournament decided on a threshold of 200 for suspending matches after talking to environment experts and respiratory specialists, adding some sporting events - including the Olympics - use 300 as their benchmark.

"I received - and that doesn't mean everyone should be the same - an answer that convinces me," Nadal, a 19-time Grand Slam champion, said.

"They told me that they have the right specialists here analysing and monitoring the air every four minutes.

"There are parameters, if it is over 200, we don't play, and if it is under 200 we normally play.

"And I was given an answer that the 'Olympic rule' is until 300 you can keep competing.

"I really cannot believe that the most important committee in the world wants bad health for the competitors.

"So that answer convinces me. I am here to play."

However, Canadian 13th seed Denis Shapovalov says he would not play - and default a match - if the air quality became hazardous.

"I don't want to risk my life, risk my health being out there playing in these conditions when I can play for the next 10-15 years," said the 20-year-old.

"I think everyone is on the same page in terms of how it is.

"I don't think anyone is happy with the way things are being dealt with."

Shapovalov, who helped Canada reach the Davis Cup final in November, said tournament officials should consider reducing men's matches to three sets if play is suspended for long periods because of poor air quality.

No. 1 Seed In Chili Bowl Pole Dash Is Thorson’s

Published in Racing
Friday, 17 January 2020 21:00

TULSA, Okla. – Just moments after winning Friday’s Vacuworx Qualifying Night feature at Tulsa Expo Raceway, Tanner Thorson pulled the No. 1 seed for the #DoItForGrady Chili Bowl Nationals Pole Dash.

Thorson, who won to become one of the top-five seeds in the special event that will set the first five rows of the starting grid of Saturday night’s 55-lap finale, was the last driver to pull a pill Friday night.

That pill ended up being the best one in the house, as it guarantees him a start of no worse than fourth in the headlining A-main, which will be broadcast to a worldwide audience on MAVTV.

“I actually didn’t want the (number) one pill,” Thorson noted. “I didn’t want to (have a chance to) start on the front row, but we’ll make do with this and see what we can do to win the thing Saturday night.”

The format for this year’s revamped pole dash is different than the King of the Hill-style event that set the top-10 starting positions in previous years.

Instead of one-on-one, two-car battle sessions, races of four cars apiece will determine who lines up where for the Chili Bowl finale.

Seeds seven through 10 will race in the first four-car dash, with the top two finishers advancing to meet seeds five and six. The top two finishers from that next race will advance and face off against seeds three and four.

Then, the top two from that sprint will battle against the top-two seeds overall, with that final four-car sprint lining up the first four positions on the grid for Saturday night’s championship A-main.

Behind Thorson, Thursday winner Christopher Bell and Tuesday winner Kyle Larson are seeded second and third, respectively. Wednesday winner Rico Abreu is the fourth seed and Cannon McIntosh, who won Monday night’s preliminary feature, slots in as the fifth-seeded driver.

Jonathan Beason, Ryan Bernal, Thomas Meseraull, Colby Copeland and Tyler Courtney are the sixth through 10th seeds for Saturday night’s Pole Dash.

The #DoItForGrady/#BCForever Pole Dash will be telecast live on MAVTV at 7:15 p.m. CT.

How to Watch the Chili Bowl:

LIVE From the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Presented by MyRacePass – Story Index Page
News, analysis, interviews, behind-the-scenes and more – updated throughout each day.

LIVE PPV Streaming Broadcast – Racinboys.com
Monday – Saturday coverage

LIVE Television Broadcast – MAVTV.com
Saturday, Jan. 18th at 8:30pm EST

LIVE Timing and Scoring – MyRacePass
https://www.myracepass.com/app

SPEED SPORT’s Chili Bowl coverage is presented by MyRacePass, the official timing and scoring app of the 2020 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Fans can download the MyRacePass app on their phones to follow all the action during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. For more information on MyRacePass, visit www.myracepass.com and use the hashtag #GetTheApp on Twitter!

VIDEO: Bernal Gives Matt Wood Another Lock In

Published in Racing
Friday, 17 January 2020 23:40

LIVE from the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Presented by MyRacePass

Ryan Bernal Friday Second Place Interview

Matt Wood Racing’s Ryan Bernal made some impressive moves en route to a second place finish in Friday night’s Chili Bowl Nationals qualifying race. Bernal is now locked into Saturday’s championship A-main.

Afterward, he spoke with SPEED SPORT’s Jacob Seelman about the good run and about getting permission from his supervisor to take off work in order to go racing!

How to Watch the Chili Bowl:

LIVE From the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Presented by MyRacePass – Story Index Page
News, analysis, interviews, behind-the-scenes and more – updated throughout each day.

LIVE PPV Streaming Broadcast – Racinboys.com
Monday – Saturday coverage

LIVE Television Broadcast – MAVTV.com
Saturday, Jan. 18th at 8:30pm EST

LIVE Timing and Scoring – MyRacePass
https://www.myracepass.com/app

SPEED SPORT’s Chili Bowl coverage is presented by MyRacePass, the official timing and scoring app of the 2020 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Fans can download the MyRacePass app on their phones to follow all the action during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. For more information on MyRacePass, visit www.myracepass.com and use the hashtag #GetTheApp on Twitter!

VIDEO: Crazy Chili Bowl Prelim Goes Thorson’s Way

Published in Racing
Saturday, 18 January 2020 00:00

LIVE from the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Presented by MyRacePass

Tanner Thorson Friday Winner Interview

The 2016 USAC National Midget Series champion, Tanner Thorson, took the checkers in Friday night’s Chili Bowl Nationals qualifying race, locking him into Saturday’s A-main.

After the exciting victory, SPEED SPORT’s Jacob Seelman was there to talk to him!

How to Watch the Chili Bowl:

LIVE From the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Presented by MyRacePass – Story Index Page
News, analysis, interviews, behind-the-scenes and more – updated throughout each day.

LIVE PPV Streaming Broadcast – Racinboys.com
Monday – Saturday coverage

LIVE Television Broadcast – MAVTV.com
Saturday, Jan. 18th at 8:30pm EST

LIVE Timing and Scoring – MyRacePass
https://www.myracepass.com/app

SPEED SPORT’s Chili Bowl coverage is presented by MyRacePass, the official timing and scoring app of the 2020 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Fans can download the MyRacePass app on their phones to follow all the action during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. For more information on MyRacePass, visit www.myracepass.com and use the hashtag #GetTheApp on Twitter!

Camille Serme and Mohamed ElShorbagy take ToC titles

Published in Squash
Friday, 17 January 2020 19:53

TOC 2020 champions Camille Serme and Mohamed ElShorbagy

Mo back at No.1 as Camille beats Egypt 5-0
By SEAN REUTHE – Squash Mad Correspondent

Egypt’s Mohamed ElShorbagy and France’s Camille Serme lifted the 2020 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions titles as they overcame World Champions Tarek Momen and Nour El Sherbini in New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal to win the first PSA World Tour Platinum event of the New Year.

ElShorbagy will overtake compatriot Ali Farag as the men’s World No.1 in the PSA World Rankings for February after he came back from a game down to overcome World No.3 Momen, winning 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 to capture his third Tournament of Champions trophy after wins in 2015 and 2016.

The 29-year-old was a runner-up in Grand Central 12 months ago as he lost the final – and his World No.1 spot – to Farag. However, ElShorbagy cut a determined figure on court although he struggled at times with his right knee and needed treatment from the physio when 8-5 up in the fourth game.

However, he fought through the pain barrier to close out the win and collect his 40th PSA Tour title, a tally which puts him joint fifth on the all-time men’s PSA World Tour title winners list, level with fellow Egyptian Ramy Ashour and former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier.

“To win the trophy for the third time is an honour,” said ElShorbagy. “To have your name beside all the great champions that have won the event, it’s the kind of moment that I live for. I said before the season started that my main goal was to get back to World No.1 and to achieve this on the same court that I lost the World No.1 last year is a great feeling.

“There is no better venue than here that I would have wanted it to happen and I’m really proud.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the women’s final, World No.5 Serme got her hands on her second Tournament of Champions title after a breathtaking performance from the 30-year-old saw her end a four-match losing streak to El Sherbini. 

Serme played some of the best squash of her career in New York this week as she defeated World No.1 Raneem El Welily and World No.3 Nouran Gohar en route to the final, before completing the set with an 11-8, 11-6, 11-7 win over World No.2 El Sherbini. Serme was drawn against an Egyptian in each of her five matches here in New York. 

El Sherbini was appearing in just her second PSA event of the season after her fourth World Championship triumph in November and sported knee strapping throughout the match. She never quite found her range as Serme played accurate, composed squash, and the French player closed out the win in 40 minutes to capture her first major title since her 2017 Tournament of Champions win.

“All the titles are special and different, but this one is special because the last tournament I lost in the quarter final of the World Championship against a very strong Hania El Hammamy and that was a tough one,” said Serme after winning her 15th PSA title.

“I know Nour was not 100%, I think everyone could see it. She was not moving very well on court but it’s not easy to play someone you know is not 100%. I was just trying to not think about it, but it’s not easy and all credit to her.

“If I could have all of my team at every tournament then I would do it. It’s so nice and so important to me to have them with me. To prepare all those matches, to analyse every match, usually we analyse when I lose but this week we have been analysing when I have won, so it was very interesting. I wish they could come every time.”

ElShorbagy and Serme take home over $25,000 each in prize money and also qualify for the season-ending PSA World Tour Finals. The PSA World Tour Finals take place in June and feature all seven PSA World Tour Platinum title winners and reigning World Champions, with the other spots being made up of the highest-ranked players on the Road to Egypt Standings. 

2020 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA..

Men’s Final:
[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [4] Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-1: 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 (76m)

Women’s Final:
[5] Camille Serme (FRA) bt [2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-7 (40m) 

Report by SEAN REUTHE (PSA). Edited by ALAN THATCHER.

Pictures courtesy of PSA

Posted on January 18, 2020

Austin (68) birdies last to take lead in Champions opener

Published in Golf
Friday, 17 January 2020 14:45

KA'UPULEHI-KONA, Hawaii – Woody Austin scrambled for birdie on the par-4 18th Friday to take the lead into the final round of the PGA Tour Champions' season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship, while Ernie Els had the best round of the day to get into contention in his senior debut.

After the wind carried Austin's drive far right, he hit a low 4-iron out of the rough to 12 feet to set up the closing birdie at windy Hualalai. He had a 4-under 68 to get to 11-under 133, a stroke ahead of Bernhard Langer.

"I don't think you're supposed to have 4-iron in on the 18th hole, but I hit a beautiful little low little runner and gave myself a birdie putt that I made," Austin said.

The 55-year-old Austin won the 2016 event for the second of his four senior titles. He also won four times on the PGA Tour.

"I've got to sharpen up the putter," Austin said. "I three-putted three times in the two days, so I need to sharpen that up."

Langer, tied for the first-round lead with Miguel Angel Jimenez, followed an opening 64 with a 70.

"It's a much tougher wind for this course," Langer said. "It was southwest, so it played almost the opposite. The par 5s are a lot harder today than yesterday. I reached all the par 5s yesterday. Today, I only reached one. Just a harder wind for some reason the way the holes lay out."

The 62-year-old German star won the event in 2009, 2014 and 2017. He has 40 Champions victories.

Jimenez, the 2015 winner, had three front-nine bogeys in a 71 to fall into a tie for third with Fred Couples at 9 under. The 60-year-old Couples had a 68.

"If it's this hard of a wind, someone could shoot 4 or 5 under and win," Couples said. "If it's calmer, it might take 6 or 7 under. It's like that every year."

Els followed a 72 with a 65 to get to 7 under. He birdied four of the first six holes and eagled the par-5 seventh. He bogeyed the par-4 ninth and added birdies on Nos. 12 and 13.

"I just felt a bit more comfortable," said Els, the four-time major winner from South Africa who turned 50 in October. "Believe it or not, after all these years, I felt like a rookie yesterday and I felt a little out of place."

He changed putters to try to get better roll.

"I left everything short and didn't quite get it to the hole yesterday, so it was a little better," Els said.

John Daly also was 7 under after a 68.

Davis Love III shot 66 after an opening 74 left him tied for last in the 38-player field.

Fantasy Picks: Be brave and punt on hot-and-cold Curran

Published in Cricket
Friday, 17 January 2020 18:58

January 18: Sydney Thunder v Sydney Sixers

Our XI

Josh Philippe, Alex Hales (capt), Daniel Hughes, Alex Ross, Callum Ferguson, Moises Henriques, Chris Morris, Daniel Sams, Tom Curran (vice-capt), Lloyd Pope, Liam Bowe

NOTE: We might not always be able to tip you off about late injury (or other relevant updates)

Captain: Alex Hales

Hales is Thunder's second-highest run-getter so far, but as much as his 254 runs, it is his strike rate of 138.79 that should get you interested. He's coming off a run of solid starts (31, 55 and 26 in his last three innings), and Thunder need him to make it big and lift them out of near-bottom of the table with time running out.

Vice-captain: Tom Curran

Curran has blown hot and cold at times this season, but on days he has come good, his performances have been cause of instant regret for fantasy players who have not made him captain or vice-captain. A 3 for 32 and 2 for 30 have been followed by a 0 for 52, and a four-wicket haul against Adelaide Strikers was followed by 1 for 58 against Marcus Stoinis' boundary barrage in Melbourne.

You'd be brave to punt on him as your vice-captain, but what's fantasy sport without a bit of that?

PS: A safer bet might be to go with Callum Ferguson.

Hot Picks

Callum Ferguson

Ferguson has been the one island of consistency in a Thunder middle order sorely lacking in runs. He has held the Golden Cap for the tournament's highest run-getter at different points early in the season, and as 302 runs at an average of 37.75 prove, is your banker with the bat.

Alex Ross

Ross hasn't been dismissed for less than 40 in five BBL games in 2020 so far, and strikes at a brisk 137.4 (this season), ideal for someone batting at No. 5 closer to the tail end of the innings. Made his highest score of the season in his last innings, and is worth getting into your XI.

Josh Philippe

While 277 runs suggest that it has been a good Big Bash season so far, Philippe's strike rate stands at an uncharacteristic 127.64, an indication of how he's often been tied down in the Powerplay. However, he's an impact player who has that match-winning knock in him just around the corner - you don't need to look beyond his 44-ball 81* and 52-ball 83* for proof.

Value Picks

Lloyd Pope

From an U-19 World Cup star in 2018, Pope is having the kind of season that could signal his rise from being a hot prospect for the future to a dependable weapon with the ball. An economy rate of 7.14 is creditable for a leggie, and given that he's managed 10 wickets from eight games to go with it, should be one of the first names on your team sheet at this point.

Liam Bowe

Left-arm wristspinners are a shoo-in to most fantasy XI just for sheer novelty, and Bowe has impressed in his first two games of the season over the past week. His T20 career-best 2 for 23 came in Thunder's last game, and at his price, he's worth punting on.

Points to note

  • The Sydney Showground has been marginally better for spinners when compared to pace bowlers, most specifically for wristspinners, who have 49 wickets since the 2016-17 season at an incredible economy rate of 6.64. It could be the day Pope and Bowe come good for their sides

  • Nathan Lyon is in contention for a Big Bash return, subject to recovering from a finger injury. So watch out for team news before you finalise your XI - he could potentially replace Bowe or one of the seamers. Our backup picks include Ben Dwarshuis and Jackson Bird [both Sixers]

Has KL Rahul solved India's middle-order muddle?

Published in Cricket
Friday, 17 January 2020 20:17

When trying to finalise the best batting line-up in the ongoing series, India were wondering how to squeeze three openers in the XI and also fix a fragile-looking middle order with decent options but nobody really outshining the other. What do you do then? Simple, move an opener to the middle order.

The team management's intention to move KL Rahul to No. 4 or 5 may not originally have been to solve the middle-order issues but the way the in-form batsman went about his innings on Friday, it has given them an option of playing him there for some more time and killing two birds with one stone. India can now easily continue to open with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, have Virat Kohli at his original No. 3 spot, bat Shreyas Iyer and Rahul interchangeably at Nos. 4 and 5 depending on the situation, and Rishabh Pant at 6.

With a quickfire innings laden with classic and innovative strokes for 80 runs off just 52 balls, Rahul first became Kohli's stable ally for nearly 11 overs and then went on to play the finisher's role to ensure India put on a challenging 340. After Kohli's one-game experiment of batting at No. 4 by playing the three openers in the top order in Mumbai, the captain returned to his original position in Rajkot and Rahul came out to bat at a tricky score of 198 for 3 in the 33rd over. The issue then was not the scoring rate but how India would get to a strong total by avoiding the kind of middle-order collapse - 4 for 30 - they suffered in the first ODI.

ALSO READ: KL Rahul and Kuldeep Yadav the gamechangers as India go level

After dot-ball pressure got the better of Iyer, Rahul started with one of his trademark drives against Mitchell Starc and barely let his strike rate dip below 100 from there, mixing his innings with the odd boundary and plenty of singles. One of his best shots, that also shot up his strike rate, was against Ashton Agar - a classical straight six that rammed into the sightscreen. In order to become this steady hand in the middle order, Rahul said he didn't change his technique but watched a lot of videos of world-class batsmen.

"I just spoke a lot more to middle-order batsmen and watched a lot of videos," Rahul said. "I spoke a lot to Virat and watched a lot of videos of AB [de Villiers] or Steve Smith and how they build their innings. Kane Williamson is somebody I've tried to go back and watch some of his videos and see how they build their innings and how they play in certain situations. The only thing I'm trying to learn is how I can use my game and be better at a certain situation. Reading of the game has got a lot better for me now that I've played in different positions and batting becomes a lot more enjoyable."

Despite being 1-0 down in a short series, India could take the risk of batting an opener out of his position because of the kind of form he is in. Since the beginning of November, Rahul has batted 13 times in ODIs and T20Is to score 650 runs at a strike rate of 116.27, including a one-day hundred against West Indies and six other half-centuries at an average of 54.16. Rahul had batted eight other times at No. 4 or lower in one-dayers previously, including domestic List A matches, but never scored a fifty in them.

"It's a great challenge [in the middle order] and the last couple of months have been good, I have been in decent form and pretty confident about my skill," he said. "So coming up to every game and having a new responsibility and a new role is also a blessing. I don't think a lot of batsmen get that so that is how I look at this and I am enjoying my batting.

"I have always opened the batting so that's the position I am most comfortable in and I know how to build my innings. But I get to learn so much about my own self and about my batting and batting as an art when I get to bat at No. 3 or 4 or 5, and I am kind of enjoying it and finding new ways to counter bowlers, new ways to handle situation. I don't look at it as pressure, it's something like an opportunity and I will try to play it the best I can."

When Kohli fell for 78 at the score of 276 at the start of the 44th over, Rahul, at 42 off 32, then seamlessly switched his role to that of a finisher even though Manish Pandey fell quickly at the other end. Rahul took on an off-colour Starc by following a four with a magnificent inside-out drive over the covers. It was the 46th over and Rahul showed that just like Kohli and Sharma, he could rely on technically-correct shots and not slogs to collect boundaries in the death overs. Rahul gave similar treatment to Pat Cummins in the penultimate over - a six and a four - taking the two menacing fast bowlers for a collective 41 runs off 22 balls.

By the time he got out, Rahul had become the first India batsman at No. 5 or lower to score a fifty at a strike rate of over 150 when batting first since November 2013. Now in Rahul, India have a solid option for No. 4 if Kohli gets out early, or let him play second-fiddle to Kohli when the need arises, and even polish off the innings with lusty blows like he did on Friday at No. 5.

Not to forget he can keep wicket well, skills he exhibited with the quick stumping of Aaron Finch off Ravindra Jadeja, which can also make him India's back-up keeper for Pant when India tour overseas for limited-overs matches, such as the T20 World Cup later this year. Just don't compare him with the other Rahul from Karnataka who also once kept wicket for India, because it makes this Rahul awkward in press conferences.

'Nawaz gave us the punch we needed' - Russell

Published in Cricket
Friday, 17 January 2020 20:21

Rajshahi Royals captain Andre Russell has credited Mohammad Nawaz for taking the pressure off him and helping the side to the BPL title on Friday. The pair plundered 71 off 34 balls, with Nawaz surprisingly dominating the partnership with an unbeaten 41 off 20 balls. The stand lifted Rajshahi to 170 for 4, which proved 21 too many for Khulna Tigers.

ALSO READ: Nawaz, Russell fire Rajshahi to BPL title

Russell also praised wicketkeeper-batsman Irfan Sukkur for his fifty under pressure in the first half of Rajshahi's innings. Sukkur became the first uncapped Bangladesh player to hit a half-century in the BPL final.

"Once I was there until the end, we could definitely be more aggressive," Russell said. "[Khulna] bowl well in the death but when two good batters [are] swinging from the hips, anything can happen. Well played to [Mohammad] Nawaz. He took a lot of pressure off me. He gave us the punch that we needed going into bowling. Irfan Sukkur is big-hearted guy. I have been telling him to believe in himself, you can hit the ball. Just be positive. When a big player speaks to these guys, they can move mountains."

Russell, who became the first overseas captain to lift the BPL title, said that he didn't find it too difficult to deal with domestic cricketers.

"It wasn't that difficult [to be a foreign captain]," he said. "The first week, a few practice sessions and the first two games, was the time to know what each player is about - whether a bowler was better with the new ball, in the middle overs or at the death. It took me a few games but everyone really pulled through when I called on them. Rabbi bowled well tonight. Irfan has been doing well."

Russell said that he wanted to make sure that the domestic cricketers and the helpers around the team get paid, even though there was no prize money in this tournament. In the last BPL, the champions received BDT 2 crore (USD 250,000) while the runners-up side got BDT 85 lakh (USD 106,250).

"In franchise cricket, every player looks forward to the prize money," he said. "But for me, winning the tournament is everything. It might sound like I don't like money. "I just want to make sure that these local guys who helps us with our bags and always around the team, is taken care of. They get some bonus. I am happy once they and the local players are taken care of. This is what matters the most."

Russell also said that he enjoyed his stint with Rajshahi with whom he had won his first T20 tournament as a captain. "It is actually a good feeling," he said. "I didn't really notice [that I was the first foreign captain to win the BPL]. They trusted my ability. I believe in myself as well, to get the job done. I contributed as much as I could. We had a very good unit. Everyone showed up tonight.

"My first championship as a captain is really special to me. As a captain, you don't want to be selfish. At the same time, you have to believe in other bowlers. Everyone answered and came to the party tonight."

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Bold plan to save soccer: Redistribute players, not the wealth

Sometimes, it takes something bold to enact change. UEFA's annual benchmarking report, released this...

Young completes Inter move from Man United

Young completes Inter move from Man United

Ashley Young has completed a transfer from Manchester United to Serie A side Inter Milan, the clubs...

Basketball

Cavs' Thompson T'd up for Crowder 'butt slap'

Cavs' Thompson T'd up for Crowder 'butt slap'

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson became the second Cleveland athlete this week to get in...

The Heat and Thunder are benefiting from CP3 staying put

The Heat and Thunder are benefiting from CP3 staying put

OKLAHOMA CITY -- It felt like he was doing it again.A reclining midrange jumper over the fingertips...

Baseball

Darvish now asks: Were Astros stealing off me?

Darvish now asks: Were Astros stealing off me?

CHICAGO -- In the aftermath of the Astros' cheating scandal, Yu Darvish has been left wondering: Was...

Manager search a hot topic at Red Sox fan event

Manager search a hot topic at Red Sox fan event

CEO Sam Kennedy said the Boston Red Sox haven't made any notable progress in the search for a new ma...

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