Smith replaces Dhoni as Pune franchise captain

In IPL 2016, Rising Pune Supergiants fared badly to finish 7th just above Kings XI Punjab.

The captaincy baton of Rising Pune Supergiants, one of the two Indian Premier League newbies,
has been passed on from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the most successful India captain across formats,
to Steven Smith, Australia’s Test skipper.

While making the announcement official, team owner Sanjiv Goenka did not elaborate on the
reasons behind the change in the leadership. “I have the highest regard for MS Dhoni as a leader
and a person. Dhoni will continue to be an important part of our team. He is supportive of the
decision keeping the franchisee’s best interests in mind,” Goenka said in a statement.

we understands that the decision of the RPS management was on the basis of a review of the 2016
edition of the IPL. RPS’s debut season turned out to be a forgettable outing for the team as it
finished seventh among eight teams in the league stage. It was the first time Dhoni was featuring in
the IPL for a team other than Chennai Super Kings, and it turned out to be the first time a team led
by Dhoni failed to make the cut for the last-four stage.

The top management of RPS is understood to have been convinced that the onus lay with Dhoni for
the team’s inability to rise to the challenge. As a result, for the last couple of months, the cricket
fraternity was abuzz with Dhoni’s removal from the captain’s post being a matter of time.

The choice for leading the team, Smith, however came as a surprise to many. Smith, who will return
as the Pune franchise skipper after donning the captain’s hat for the now-defunct Pune Warriors
India, is a proven performer. However, despite two of India’s Test vice-captains — R. Ashwin
and Ajinkya Rahane — being a part of the squad along with South Africa’s Faf du Plessis, the
ownership eventually decided on Smith.

It is understood that head coach Stephen Fleming informed the Australia Test captain during a
meeting at the Australia team hotel in Mumbai over the last two days. The two are also understood
to have discussed RPS’s auction strategy.
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Sachin Tendulkar calls Nasser Hussain the best captain he faced

Over the course of his storied career, batting legend Sachin Tendulkar played against many great
captains, none of whom was better than English captain Nasser Hussain, he believes. He says
Nasser's ability to anticipate a shot and plan in advance accordingly made him such a great captain.

In his 24-year long career, Sachin has played against many different captains at the helm of many
different teams. Among all those, he regards English captain Nasser Hussain as the best opposition
captain he's ever faced.

"Among the captains I played against, I consider Nasser Hussain the best. He was an excellent
strategist and even if some of his tactics occasionally bordered on the negative - using the left-arm
spinner Ashley Giles to bowl to me outside my leg stump from over the wicket, for example - he
was a very good thinker about the game and was proactive," Tendulkar has written in his
autobiography 'Playing it My Way'.

Nasser, who played 96 Test matches for England, captained his team in 45 of those between 1999
and 2003. "Nasser would not place a fielder in a particular position after a shot was played.
Rather, he had the ability to anticipate the shot and would place a fielder well in advance, making a
real difference to his team," wrote Tendulkar.

Tendulkar also had great praise for Michael Clarke, who he rated a better captain than Mark
Taylor, Steve Waugh, and Ricky Ponting. He also talked about Graeme Smith and how he did a
great job after being handed over the reins of his team at the young age of 22.

"Among the Australians, I rate Michael Clarke as the best captain I played against. While I was too
young to judge Allan Border in 1992, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting benefited
from having some of the greatest players of our generation in their teams. With so many match-
winners, the role of the captain is automatically reduced. Graeme Smith of South Africa is yet
another player I have great regard for as skipper. Taking over the reins of the side at the age of 22
in the most tumultuous of conditions, Smith did brilliantly to propel South Africa to the top of the
world Test rankings," he wrote.
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PAVLYUCHENKOVA CLEARS JANKOVIC CHALLENGE ON RAINY DAY IN
DOHA

DOHA, Qatar - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was the only winner on Tuesday at the Qatar Total
Open, moving through a rainy Valentine's Day to dispatch former World No.1 Jelena Jankovic, 6-
1, 6-4, and advance into the second round.

"It was quite a long day, but I'll take it," she said after the match. "I'm happy to be one of the first
ones done today, and it's a nice present for myself, as well."

Pavlyuchenkova came in hot after a run to the Australian Open quarterfinals, completing a career
set of last eight appearances at major tournaments. But stormy weather threatened to cool off the
big-hitting Russian, who was set to open play against Jankovic, one of the most dangerous
qualifiers in recent memory.

"I haven't such a good start to a season before, but it's exciting, and I'm just trying to take it
tournament by tournament."

Court floor being dried in order to resume the matches of the @WTA #Qatar_Total_Open! Keep
following us for more updates! pic.twitter.com/IEGFVI5wIe

— Qatar Tennis Fed. (@QatarTennis)
Jankovic had to battle through three rounds of qualifying for the first time since 2004 (Filderstadt),
but after a year full of injuries, the 2008 US Open finalist discussed the need for more matches to
help ease her back into competitive play.

"I'm feeling good but I need to get my game up there and of course my confidence and just being
comfortable in the matches, being in those situations all over again, match in, match out, day in, day
out, compete and fight and find my way," she said on Monday.

Even with multiple rain delays, the Serb ultimately had few answers against Pavlyuchenkova, who
hit 23 winners to just 14 unforced errors while Jankovic went 0/5 on break point opportunities.

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Sarfraz to replace Azhar Ali as new ODI captain

Wicket keeper Sarfraz Ahmed on Thursday was appointed captain of the One Day International
(ODI) cricket team, replacing senior batsman Azhar Ali.

Azhar Ali, in a meeting with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Shaharyar Khan in Dubai,
informed the PCB head that he is ready to step down as captain, PCB sources said, after which the
PCB appointed Sarfraz captain.

Separately, Test captain Misbah-ul-haq told the PCB chairman that he needs some time to decide
whether he will remain captain or not and will reach a decision after the Pakistan Super League, the
sources said.

Talking to DawnNews on the phone from Dubai Shehryar Khan said Ahzar Ali told him that he
was ready to step down as the ODI captain.

"After Azhar's offer I discuss the matter with head coach Mickey Arthur, Inzamam ul Haq and
other senior officials and we mutualy decided to appoint Sarfraz as the new captain."

Shehryar Khan also said, "Misbah has informed him that he is yet to decide about retaining the
position as the Test captain and will inform us about his decision after PSL"

The PCB chairman gave Misbah time to make the decision, but made it clear that the board will
also have a say in the matter of Test captaincy.
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Alastair Cook steps down as England Test captain

Alastair Cook has decided to step down as captain of the England Test setup. According the
England & Wales Cricket Board website, Cook had first discussed his decision with the Board
Chairman Colin Graves and later conveyed to Direct of England Cricket Andrew Strauss his
continuing commitment to playing Test cricket for the country.

“It’s been a huge honour to be England captain and to lead the Test team over the past five years,”
Cook is quoted as saying by the ECB, “Stepping down has been an incredibly hard decision but I
know this is the correct decision for me and at the right time for the team. I’ve had time to reflect
after the India series and this weekend I spoke to Colin Graves, the Chairman, to explain and offer
my resignation.”

He also said that it was a “sad day personally in many ways.” “But I want to thank everyone I’ve
captained, all the coaches and support staff and, of course, the England supporters and the Barmy
Army who follow us home and away and have given us unwavering support. Playing for England
really is a privilege and I hope to carry on as a Test player, making a full contribution and helping
the next England captain and the team however I can.”

On Saturday, Cook was awarded the honorary post of Commander of the Most Excellent Order
of the British Empire (CBE). Having led England in 59 Tests, he is the country’s most capped
captain in the longest format of the game. He is also regarded as one of the greatest and most
prolific batsmen ever to play for England. Cook also led England to their first Test victory in India
since 1984–85. He also has two Ashes victories under his belt as captain.

Cook’s captaincy came under the scanner following England’s poor performance at Bangladesh
and their disastrous five match Test series against India. Cook managed to score a century in the
first Test but England went on to be routed 4-0 in the series by a rampant Indian side.
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Kevin Pietersen opts out of IPL 2017

Kevin Pietersen will not play the 2017 season of the IPL, citing a busy winter as a reason for not
entering the player auction scheduled for later this month.

Pietersen, 36, was part of the Rising Pune Supergiants franchise in 2016 but played only four
games before missing the rest of the tournament with a calf injury. He was released by the franchise
in December last year and would have had to be bought at the player auction in February to play
this year.

"I won't be going into the IPL auction," Pietersen said on Twitter. "My winter has been too busy
with all my travel & I don't want to spend April/May away too!"

Pietersen spent the winter playing the domestic T20 tournament in South Africa - 198 runs in five
innings for Dolphins - and the Big Bash League in Australia, where he scored 268 runs in eight
innings in Melbourne Stars' run to the semi-final.

He had played for Quetta Gladiators in the inaugural season of the PSL in 2016 and is set to be
part of the team once again for the upcoming tournament from February 9 to March 5. The IPL is
scheduled to begin in the first week of April and end in the third week of May.
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Mukund recalled, Saha comes back in Indian Test team

Tamil Nadu opener Abhinav Mukund was today recalled after nearly six years as a back-up
opener in the 16-member Indian Test squad for one-off Test against Bangladesh, starting February
9.

The selection committee meeting was delayed by six hours after the new Committee of
Administrators (COA) barred joint secretary Amitabh Chaudhary from convening it.

Numerous phone calls and emails were exchanged after which BCCI CEO Rahul Johri convened
the meeting.

Back to selection, Tamil Nadu southpaw Mukund is the additional member of the side with
Wriddhiman Saha regaining his rightful place as the No. 1 wicket-keeper in Tests, replacing Parthiv
Patel.

Mukund has been a steady scorer with over 700 runs in Ranji Trophy for Tamil Nadu and will
return to the national team dressing room after twin tours of West Indies and England in 2011.

Elsewhere, there wasn’t much change in the side with Ajinkya Rahane, Jayant Yadav, Hardik
Pandya all back in the side having recovered from injuries.

Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Karun Nair, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were
automatic choices. The pace trio of Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav also
picked themselves. Amit Mishra has been included as an additional spinner.

Squad: Virat Kohli (Capt), KL Rahul, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair,
Hardik Pandya, Wrddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra,
Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Abhinav Mukund.
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Williams sisters set for historic finals match at Australian Open

THE Williams sisters are doing it for themselves.

And for the ninth time in history, they’ll play off for a grand slam title.

The last time the sisters met at that stage was in 2009, when younger sister Serena defeated Venus
at Wimbledon.

Prior to that, they played off at Wimbledon in 2002, 2003 and 2008; at Melbourne Park in 2003;
Rolland Garros in 2002; and, the US Open in 2001 and 2002.

Venus was only triumphant at Flushing Meadows in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2008.

Indeed, their overall head-to-head record favours Serena, who has won 16 of their 27 encounters.

If that trend continues, and Serena is again the champion in Australia, she will become the second
most successful women’s player of all-time in terms of Grand Slam titles.

It would be Serena’s 23rd title, only one shy of the Australian legend Margaret Court, and one
more than German star Steffi Graff.
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New Zealand vs Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal takes full responsibility for 'lazy' visitors' loss

Christchurch: Bangladesh captain Tamim Iqbal branded his side "lazy" after a batting implosion saw
New Zealand cruise to a nine-wicket win in the second Test at Hagley Oval in Christchurch on
Monday.

While Kane Williamson rated it New Zealand's "best day" of the series, Tamim was bitterly
disappointed with the way the Test was effectively over in three days after one day was washed out.

"We all took the lazy option," he said, demanding improvement from the top down before they go
to India for a one-off Test early next month.

New Zealand were left with a 109-run target which they knocked off in 18.4 overs after
Bangladesh were all out for 173 in their second innings.

Tamim went cheaply for eight in the sixth over and after a brief period of consolidation Bangladesh
lost five for 23 in the middle of the innings.

"The way I got out was rubbish," a blunt Tamim said.

"A few of the shots we played could have been much better. I take full responsibility. I take full
blame for that because I started it."

The result meant New Zealand swept the Bangladesh tour -- winning the three Twenty20s, three
one-day internationals and two Tests -- and moved them ahead of Pakistan to fifth on the world
rankings.

"I think this was the best day of Test cricket for our team throughout the series," Williamson said,
having sensed victory during the Bangladesh collapse.

"When you have any side five down, perhaps, and the bowlers are firing, then there's always
potential to take a couple more.

"It's a tone we want to set throughout the (summer). South Africa come here now and it's important
we're good like that again and put them under pressure."

On a day of 14 dismissals on an easy wicket, New Zealand coasted home with Tom Latham
unbeaten on 41 and Colin de Grandhomme on 33.
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Saina Nehwal Wins Malaysia Grand Prix Gold, Lifts Her First Title Since Knee Surgery

Indian badminton ace Saina Nehwal notched up her first title after a career-threatening injury by
claiming the Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold with a hard-fought victory in the summit clash on
Sunday.

Up against 18-year-old Thai Pornpawee Chochuwong, the top-seeded London Olympics bronze-
medallist triumphed 22-20 22-20 in a 46-minute clash.

This was her 23rd title overall and the first after last year's Australian Open.

The 26-year-old world No.10, who had been desperately looking for a title that boosts her
confidence after recovering from a knee surgery last year, was squaring off against a rival ranked
more than 50 places below her at 67th.

The two were meeting for the first time in the circuit and Saina was on the backfoot in the opening
game when Chochuwong reeled off four consecutive points to grab the early initiative.

Chochuwong maintained the advantage going forward and was placed 11-5 at the break.

However, Saina narrowed the gap to make it 10-13 before drawing level at 19-19 and then saving
a game point.

Chochuwong could not handle the pressure as Saina drew from her experience to clinch the
opening game after a 20-minute slog.
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Australian Open: Sania Mirza advances, Rohan Bopanna exits

Melbourne, Jan 20: Sania Mirza advanced to the women's doubles third round but Rohan Bopanna
was knocked out in his men's doubles match at the Australian Open tennis tournament here on
Friday (January 20).

Sania and her partner Barbora Strycova from Czech Republic beat Australian-Chinese pair of
Samantha Stosur and Shuai Zhang 6-1, 6-4.

The fourth seeds needed an hour and 21 minutes to win. The Indo-Czech pair will play against
Japan's Eri Hozumi and Miyu Kato.

But Bopanna and his Uruguayan partner Pablo Cuevas lost to unseeded Australian pair of Alex
Bolt and Bradley Mousley in the second round 6-2, 6-7 (2), 4-6.

The 15th seed were beaten in one hour and 55 minutes. Bopanna's loss ended India's challenge in
the men's doubles competition after veteran Leander Peas, partnering Brazilian Andre Sa, and
Purav Raja and Divij Sharan lost in the first round on Thursday.

Sania-Barbora broke serve twice to claim an early 4-0 lead. That lead was enough for them to win
the first set comfortably 6-1.

Stosur-Zhang responded in the second set, breaking Sania's serve in the second game and then
consolidated holding their serve to go 3-0 ahead.

The Indo-Czech pair pulled level, winning the next three games straight and then capitalised on
another break to go 5-4 up.

They then saved five break points and required four match points to win the second set and the
contest.
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Johanna Konta grinds down Naomi Osaka in Australian Open second round

If Johanna Konta goes on to win the Australian Open it will be with the sort of controlled efficiency
she showed to overpower the Japanese teenager Naomi Osaka 6-4, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena on
day four.

The world No9, who absorbed her opponent’s best work in a lively start then ground her down, is
through to the third round in the toughest section of the women’s draw but playing with the sort of
consistency that makes her a genuine threat.

She squandered two break points in the fifth game and had to save one of her own in the eighth,
but Osaka was a little too eager in the shot and blew her chance, powerless to reach the fourth and
fifth aces to fly past her in just half an hour. Konta’s serving was phenomenal, hitting 89%, so the
Japanese teenager was doing well to even make a game of it.

Konta got another look on the Osaka serve in the ninth game, and this time she nailed it with an
angled backhand into the deuce corner, then finished the job to go a set up with chilling precision.

Although Osaka remained competitive, she could not handle Konta’s relentless attacks on either
wing and, nursing a strain in her left wrist, she suffered on the backhand as the British No1 drove
on to an impressive win in just over an hour on a warm, humidity-free morning.

She moved well and her repeatable, machine-like serving action provided a solid base for her open-
court game. Although there are tough matches in front of her if she is to match her achievements of
last year, when she made the semi-finals, Konta could not be in better shape to win her first major.

She made only 13 unforced errors, hit nine aces, one double fault and won 32 of 36 first serves.
Those were numbers that the promising Osaka, who saved two match points, could not cope with.

“I guess it’s surprising that the work and the travel is exactly the same as it always was,” she said
courtside when asked how her life had changed from being a hunter to the hunted. “I’m looking
forward to staying here as long as possible. Naomi is one of the up and coming players, with really
impressive results over the past year or so. I knew it was a given that I had to be there for every
single point.”

In the first round of the men’s doubles, Ken and Neal Skupski beat the Colombian 14th seeds Juan
Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 6-3, 6-4. The Liverpool brothers might have played compatriot
Dan Evans and Nick Kyrgios in the next round, but the Australian withdrew after losing his singles
the previous night, gifting progress in the draw to Serbian Dušan Lajović and Croatia’s Viktor
Troicki.
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