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Study shows India's 65% football talent concentrated to 5 states

New research by Richard Hood, a UEFA ‘A’ and AFC Pro licensed coach, and former head of player development at the All India Football Federation (AIFF), found that despite India's billion-plus population, over 65% of elite-level footballers come from just five states: Manipur, Mizoram, West Bengal, Punjab, and Goa, with a combined population of approximately 124.3 million according to the 2011 Census.

Out of the total 1,112 male players who have represented India in junior and senior national teams, as well as in the top two divisions of domestic leagues over the past 22 years, Richard Hood's analysis reveals an intriguing trend. Nearly 90% of India’s footballers originate from nine states and one city: Greater Mumbai, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya, and Sikkim, alongside Manipur, Mizoram, West Bengal, Punjab, and Goa.

These regions, with a combined population of approximately 250 million according to the 2011 Census, represent just 20% of India’s population yet contribute to 90% of its top football talent.

Mapping India's football landscape would reveal a notable gap in the central region, symbolising the minimal presence of the world’s most beloved sport in the densely-populated Hindi heartland.

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Nepal’s Airee smashes six sixes in an over; third man to achieve the feat in T20Is

Nepal’s hard-hitting Dipendra Singh Airee became the third batter to smash six sixes in an over in T20 internationals at Al Amerat (Qatar) on Saturday.

Airee achieved the feat against hosts Qatar during the ongoing ACC Men’s Premier Cup T20 International fixture.

Thus, Airee joined an elite company of Yuvraj Singh (against Stuart Broad during T20 World Cup 2007) and Kieron Pollard (against Sri Lanka's Akila Dananjaya in 2021) as batters with six maximums in one over. The 24-year-old Airee remained unbeaten on a 21-ball 64 that included three fours and seven sixes at a monstrous strike rate 304.76.

Aasif Sheikh made 52 as Nepal posted 210 for seven. They had already beaten Malaysia by five wickets in the opening match on Friday.

In fact, the Nepal man became the fifth batsman to achieve this rare feat in international cricket, with Herschelle Gibbs of South Africa and USA's Jaskaran Malhotra completing it in ODIs earlier. However, Airee is no stranger to hitting six sixes. During Nepal's Hangzhou Asian Games T20I clash against Mongolia in September last year, he had pummeled six consecutive sixes across two overs.

That match also saw Nepal posting a world-record 314 for three before bowling out the opponent for 41.

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Ruturaj Gaikwad cut from same cloth as Dhoni: Stephen Fleming

Chennai Super Kings captain Ruturaj Gaikwad is cut from the same cloth as M S Dhoni and it is unfair to term the former “slow” while batting, said head coach Stephen Fleming on Saturday.

Gaikwad, who replaced Dhoni as the CSK captain at the beginning of this IPL, has had a mixed start to his leadership stint losing two away games and winning three at home. But at the same time, the 27-year-old Gaikwad has been criticised for “slow” batting. The right-handed opening batter has so far garnered 155 runs in five matches with a strike rate of 117.42.

“There's no difference. He's as cool as it gets. I know the last captain was pretty cool. But this guy is cut from the same cloth, so that's rubbed through,” Fleming said when asked if he had any discussion with Gaikwad in terms of differentiating between his leadership and his batting. “He is such an impressive young man around his game and what he needs to do. He's been, I think, unfairly put into a bracket where he's been called slow. But you have to have context to some of these stats,” Fleming told the media during CSK’s training session at the Wankhede Stadium.

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Rajasthan Royals win toss, opt to bowl against Dhawan-less Punjab Kings

Rajasthan Royals skipper Sanju Samson won the toss and elected to bowl against Punjab Kings, who will be led by Sam Curran, in their IPL match in Mullanpur (Chandigarh)on Saturday.

England all-rounder Curran will guide PBKS after regular skipper Shikhar Dhawan sat out with a niggle. For PBKS, Atharva Taide replaced Dhawan, while Liam Livingstone also returned to the XI.

Jos Buttler and Ravichandran Ashwin will miss out with Rovman Powell and Tanush Kotian coming in for RR.

“Jos isn't 100%, Ash bhai is having a niggle,” Samson said during the toss.

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India suffer 0-5 whitewash in Australia, lose fifth Test 2-3

The Indian men’s hockey team failed to avoid a 0-5 series whitewash after going down 2-3 in the fifth Test against Australia, completing a nightmare of a tour in Perth on Saturday.

The Indians entered the final game of the series after losing their previous four matches 1-5, 2-4, 1-2 and 1-3.  The rubber was significant as far as preparation is concerned ahead of the upcoming Paris Olympics.

Skipper Harmanpreet Singh (4th) and Boby Singh Dhami (53rd) were the goal scorers for India, while Australia sounded the board through Jeremy Hayward (20th), Ky Willott (38th) and Tim Brand (39th).

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Kolkata Knight Riders seek home comfort against Mayank Yadav-less Lucknow Super Giants

Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders will seek home comfort in their bid to return to winning ways when they face a depleted Lucknow Super Giants in an Indian Premier League match in Kolkata on Sunday.

The match will be KKR’s first of the five matches at home on the trot and the Gautam Gambhir-mentored side will be fully aware this can prove decisive to clinch the play-off spot for the first time since 2021.

In the points tally, nothing separates the two teams, both of whom have secured three wins each, and lost their respective last-round matches. KKR’s over-reliance on their Caribbean ageing duo of Sunil Narine and Andre Russell was exposed by defending champions Chennai Super Kings when they lost by seven wickets in their previous outing.

Narine (27) and Russell (10) failed with the bat and the team, who had posted two 200-plus scores from three matches on the back of the Caribbean duo’s blazing form, could manage an under par 137/9 at Chennai.

That sums up KKR’s batting that has relied on some odd fireworks and missed an anchor in the absence of Nitish Rana (finger injury), who is slated to sit out of another match. In the spotlight since the beginning of the season, KKR captain Shreyas Iyer has failed to impress and his scores give an abysmal picture - 0, 39 not out, 18 and 34.

Their another designated batter Venkatesh Iyer has three single digit scores this season to go with one odd fifty against Royal Challengers Bengaluru and the team, it seems, doesn't have a clear role for him.

From batting at No. 3 in their IPL opener against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Iyer was seen in the finisher's role at No. 7 and No. 5 in their last two matches. Ramandeep Singh also had a lean run after an impressive 35 against SRH.

The 2022 U-19 World Cup winning Angkrish Raghuvanshi has impressed the most following his 54 against Delhi Capitals. And he will like to return among runs after failing to convert his start against CSK.

The most-talked about signing Mitchell Starc's poor form with the ball has been the talk of the town. The Aussie speed gun has an economy of 11.00 and took his first wicket of this IPL against DC after giving away 100 runs in the first two matches.

Having come as Impact Subs, left-arm orthodox spinner Anukul Roy has been impressive and he would like to forge formidable partnership with Narine.

While KKR will be overwhelming favourites at Eden, LSG with their unassuming approach will not give up easily, even as they will miss their pace sensation Mayank Yadav for a second successive match. Recovering from a side strain that ruled him out of their match against Gujarat Titans, Mayank is doing “good” but skipper K L Rahul has said that he may take “a couple of more games before coming back”.

Mayank’s replacement Arshad Khan failed to impress, conceding at 10.73 runs over as they failed to defend 167 at home against DC last evening.

Mohsin Khan, who claimed 2/34 against Punjab Kings, could be a perfect replacement but it remains to be seen if he’s fully recovered from his hamstring injury that had sidelined the left-arm pacer. The team owned by Kolkata-based industrialist Sanjeev Goenka will hope for a much better show after mustering an average 167/7 against DC on Friday.

The likes of Quinton De Kock and Rahul will look to return among runs, while they also boast of a powerful line-up down the order with the likes of Marcus Stoinis and Nicholas Pooran. That they also have a formidable slow bowling lineup in Ravi Bishnoi and Krunal Pandya will pose some tough questions for KKR batters.

The match starts at 3.30 pm.

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M S Dhoni in spotlight as CSK and MI resume rivalry in new era

The legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be in the spotlight in what could be his final game at the iconic Wankhede Stadium when defending champions Chennai Super Kings take on Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League on Sunday.

Dhoni returns to the hallowed turf of Wankhede for the first time as a non-captain of the CSK, potentially in his last IPL season. It will also be his first appearance as just a player for any team since November 2005.

Even at 42, Dhoni’s glove-work remains impeccable and so does his assessment of the game. But CSK will hope that his tactical acumen also helps them improve a dismal away record this season, having suffered two defeats on the road. CSK would also hope their recent record against MI — four wins in the last five matches including their seven-wicket win here last season — holds them in good stead.

Two of IPL’s most successful teams with five titles each, both sides are witnessing a tectonic shift of leadership change with Hardik Pandya taking over the mantle from Rohit Sharma at MI and Ruturaj Gaikwad succeeding Dhoni at CSK, but there is nothing that suggests their intense rivalry would expect any such shift. If anything, CSK’s bowlers could be put to sword by the rampaging MI batters who have gone hammer and tongs at the flat pitches, scoring over 230 against Delhi Capitals and chasing down nearly 200 against Royal Challengers Bengaluru with more than four overs to spare.

Pandya's MI have found their footing after a jittery start. Their batters have done well in the last two outings and Suryakumar Yadav’s 17-ball fifty against RCB provides an ominous sign to CSK bowlers, who have shown mastery on slow, turning pitches at the Chepauk but remain untested on flat, batting-friendly surfaces.

Ishan Kishan (161 runs) and Rohit’s opening stand would thus be crucial in the scheme of things but CSK would also have a lot of assurance with their own batting. Skipper Gaikwad may not be a marauder with the bat but he can be the silent enforcer in the CSK line-up, which has the exuberance of Rachin Ravindra at the top, sturdiness of Daryl Mitchell in the middle and explosiveness of Shivam Dube (176 runs), Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni in the death overs.

CSK would also be aware that seeing off the dexterous Jasprit Bumrah (10 wickets) and going after the rest of the MI bowling would be the key, since the others have given away runs at alarming rate while struggling with their line and lengths on placid surfaces.

Despite Bumrah’s five-wicket haul, MI leaked runs at a high rate to allow RCB get closer to the 200-run mark here a few nights ago. A lot will be riding on Shardul Thakur and Tushar Deshpande for CSK, who both return to their home ground, but Mustafizur Rahman (9 wickets) and the wily Jadeja would be the ones to watch out for given their recent exploits.

On their part, teams say "we want to get as many runs as possible" but by the look of it, scores around 220-230 while batting first could be the best way possible to ensure an upperhand at this venue.

The match starts 7:30 pm.

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Radhika dominates to reach women's 68 kg final

Radhika, the sole Indian female wrestler, secured her second medal at the senior Asian Championships by advancing to the 68kg final on Saturday in Bishkek.

With a previous silver at the U23 Asian Championships last year and a second-place finish at the senior Asian Championships in 2022, Radhika displayed dominance in her weight class.

She clinched victory in her first bout against Kazakhstan's Albina Kairgeldinova by technical superiority and then pinned Kyrgyzstan's Gulnura Tashtanbekova in the subsequent match. She will now face Japan's Nonoka Ozaki in the gold medal bout. Shivani Pawar (50kg) lost her quarterfinal 'by fall' to Ziqi Feng but made it to the bronze medal round after the Chinese entered the final.

In 55kg, Tamanna lost her qualification round by a comprehensive 0-9 margin to Moe Kiyooka but since the Japanese reached the final, the Indian bounced back into medal contention.

Pushpa Yadav (59kg) and Priya (76kg) also have a chance to end on the podium as their vanquishers also reached the finals to open the doors for them.

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Amit Panghal returns to Indian squad for last boxing Olympic qualifiers

World Championships silver medallist Amit Panghal has returned to the Indian squad, which saw wholesale changes for the final Olympic qualifying event, set to to be held in Bangkok from May 25 to June 2.

After Indian boxers' horrid run at the Olympic qualifiers in Italy last month, when not even one boxer could secure a quota, as many as five pugilists have lost their spot in the team for the second World Qualification Tournament.

The dismal show also led India's High Performanc Director Bernard Dunne to step down from his post. In the latest assessment, 2023 World Championships bronze medallist duo of Deepak Bhoria (51kg) and Mohammad Hussamudin (57kg), the six-time Asian Championships medallist Shiva Thapa (63.5kg), reigning national champion Lakshya Chahar (80kg) and 2022 Commonwealth games bronze medallist Jaisimine Lamboria (60kg) have lost their spot in the Indian team.

The country's lone men's world championships silver medallist (2019) Panghal, who won gold at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and the 2024 Strandja Memorial tournament, will get his first and final chance to seal his passage to his second Olympic Games, having competed in the Tokyo edition. He had lost out to Bhoria repeatedly in the assessment, hence missing out on the two qualifying events for the Paris Olympics - the Asian Games and the first World Olympic Qualifiers.

Another Strandja gold medallist and national champion Sachin Siwach (57kg) has also returned to the squad, replacing two-time CWG medallist Hussamudin. Sachin had also competed at the Asian Games last year. Himachal Pradesh's Abhinash Jamwal, who has dropped down from 67kg, scored more than the seasoned Shiva to earn a chance to compete in the light welterweight (63.5kg) category, while Abhimanyu Loura replaced Lakshya in 80kg.

Worlds bronze medallist Nishan Dev (71Kg), the lone boxer to go beyond his opening round in Italy, Sanjeet (92kg), and Hangzhou Asian Games bronze medallist Narender Berwal (+92kg) have retained their spots.

No male boxers from India has won a quota till now.

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Candidates Chess: Praggnanandhaa up against Alireza; Gukesh to face Gujrathi

Indian Grandmasters R Praggnanandhaa and D Gukesh would look to bridge the gap with leader Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia when they restart their campaigns in the eighth round of the Candidates chess tournament in Toronto.

Teen sensation Praggnanandhaa will be up against Frenchman Firouza Alireza, while Gukesh will take on compatriot Vidit Gujarathi when the tournament resumes on Saturday. While all three Indians have had a decent outing in the open section so far, it is defending champion Nepomniachtchi who is in prime position to complete a hat-trick of titles at the halfway stage.

With 4.5 points to his credit, Nepomniachtchi would be happy with his performance and stands as the favourite with half point more than nearest rivals Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh and top seed Fabiano Caruana of United States. Gujrathi on 3.5 points is known to rise towards the end of tournaments and one can expect him to come firing in the second half along with Hikaru Nakamura, who shares the fifth spot with him.

Alireza comes next in standings on the seventh spot with 2.5 points, a half point clear of Nijat Abasov of Azerbaijan.

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Mayank may miss a couple of more games, Frazer-McGurk came as a surprise: LSG's KL Rahul

Lucknow Super Giants skipper KL Rahul said on Friday that young Delhi Capitals batter Jake Frazer-McGurk took his team by surprise, adding that express pacer Mayank Yadav might have to cool his heels in the dugout for some more time to recover from a lower-abdomen niggle.

Delhi Capitals overhauled LSG's 167-run score in 18.1 overs for the loss of just four wickets with Australian Frazer-McGurk slamming 35-ball 55 on IPL debut and sharing a 77-run partnership with Rishabh Pant (41), even as Rahul sorely missed the services of Yadav. "McGurk, the new guys when they come in, was very unknown. We've watched a lot of videos of him but he hit the ball really well, credit to him," said Rahul.

Giving an update on Yadav, whose tearaway pace has rattled many a batters in IPL 2024, Rahul said, "Mayank is not too bad; he looks good, feeling good but we also want to make sure we don't rush him back in too early.

"He's young, we need to protect his body. He's itching to go, we just have to pull him back a little, maybe a couple of more games, before he comes back," added Rahul, who scored 39 on Friday.

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Delhi Capitals to win over Lucknow SuperGiants by six wickets

Australian youngster Jake Fraser-McGurk unleashed a flurry of big hits and shared a half-century partnership with skipper Rishabh Pant, allowing Delhi Capitals to defeat Lucknow Super Giants by six wickets in Lucknow on Friday.

Fraser-McGurk smashed five maximums in his 35-ball 55 and shared a 77-run stand with Pant (41 off 24 balls) as Delhi Capitals overhauled the hosts' 167/7 in 18.1 overs. Earlier, DC spinner Kuldeep Yadav (3/20) and left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed (2/41) tormented the LSG batters before Ayush Badoni hit an unbeaten 55 to take the hosts to a fighting score.

Kuldeep, returning to the side after missing three games due to groin issues, struck in his very first over grabbing the wickets of the dangerous Marcus Stoinis and Nicholas Pooran. He then got rid of LSG skipper Rahul for 39.

Brief Scores: Delhi Capitals 170 for 4 (Fraser-McGurk 55, Pant 41, Shaw 32, Bishnoi 2-25) beat Lucknow Super Giants 167 for 7 (Badoni 55*, Rahul 39, Kuldeep 3-20, Khaleel 2-41) by six wickets

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