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No live action as empty stadiums welcomed fans

Intro: The year 2020 witnessed a paucity of live sport like we hadn’t seen in decades. For fans, it meant staying away from stadiums for a large part of the year.

New Delhi: On March 8, the world witnessed an important chapter in professional sports. It was the day the Women’s T20 World Cup final was played between Australia and India at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground, which set a new record for crowd attendance in a stadium for a women’s cricket match.

Things went silent afterwards as the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

At the US Open, for instance, which boasts of the biggest tennis stadium in the world, it has always been thoroughly enjoyable to see the rapturous New York crowd dive into each match.

But this year, the Arthur Ashe Stadium was devoid of fans and that too provided a fascinating look at professional tennis.

Take the case of Liverpool fans. Their team ended a 30-year-long, agonising wait for the Premier League title. For many, it was a first in their lifetime. But none could be there at Anfield to witness that piece of history when Jordan Henderson lifted the trophy. So many of those fans would have rehearsed that moment in their minds for years, but the pandemic robbed them of it.

(File photo)

The Tokyo Olympics, which were slated to be held in July-August this year, had to be postponed to summer of 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

When one looks at 2020, which would go down in history as the ‘Year of Covid-19’, one finds that the performance of both Indian men’s and women’s cricket teams did not meet the expectations of millions of followers in cricket crazy India — and perhaps, their own, too.

And the recent debacle of Virat Kohli’s boys against the Aussies at the Adelaide Oval rubbed salt into the wounds of Indian cricket fans who have already been busy tackling the pandemic.

(File photo)

The men’s team played a total of 23 international matches — three Tests, 11 T20Is, nine ODIs, and 11 T20Is. It lost all three Tests this year (but won the Boxing Day Test in style against Australia in Melbourne), though it registered wins in 10 T20s and three ODIs, all against Australia.

Losing just one of the 11 T20 matches is appreciable. Had the T20 World Cup taken place this October, as originally scheduled, this performance would have been considered as good preparation. The World Cup has been postponed to the next year because of the pandemic.

However, it’s the other two formats — Tests and ODIs — that Kohli talks about and pays more importance to, where the team’s performance has been poor. While India lost six of the nine ODIs they played, they failed to register a single win in Test matches and even lost the number one spots both on the ICC rankings and the ICC Test Championship.

On the other hand, the Test team did not perform well. Towards the end of the year, India began the defence of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on an abysmal note as they slumped to their lowest innings score in 88 years of Test cricket when they were dismissed for 36 runs in the second innings of the day-night first Test against Tim Paine’s Australia.

The scores of the Indian players read: 4, 9, 2, 0, 4, 0, 8, 4, 0, 4, 1, which newspapers used as their headlines to describe what turned out to be the most dismal batting performance by an Indian Test team ever.

(File photo)

On an individual note, Kohli, 32, the linchpin of Indian batting, finished the year without an international hundred — a first since his debut in international cricket in 2011. Also, star players like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, and Jasprit Bumrah were not able to win matches for their team.

On the women front, the Indian team played 11 international matches — all T20 internationals. Out of these they registered wins in eight matches. Going by the numbers, the performance of the Indian team looks highly impressive.

 

Indian hockey teams aim for Olympic podium in 2021
New Delhi: The Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams had started the year with an aim to finish on the podium at 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games that would end the country’s 40-year medal drought at the world’s biggest sports extravaganza, but the Olympics were postponed to 2021 due to Covid-19.India last won a hockey gold medal in hockey at 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Since then, the men’s team has participated in eight Olympic Games without making it to the podium. In Rio, the men’s team finished a dismal eighth.The men’s team, which rose to fourth spot in the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) world rankings this year, maintained that position with 2,063.78 points in the year-end list and would enter 2021 as the fourth-ranked team.
Indian players could be fined if found guilty
Melbourne:The five Indian cricketers who have been facing probe into the alleged breach of Cricket Australia’s (CA) bio-security protocols and were put in isolation could face fines if investigations find them guilty going by the past instances of the cricketers.Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Navdeep Saini and Prithvi Shaw have been put in isolation as both the Australian and Indian cricket boards launched an investigation into a video in which they were seen sitting indoors in a restaurant and suspected to be in breach of Cricket Australia’s biosecurity protocols.The breach at the restaurant assumes significance especially after a recent rise of Covid-19 cases in Victoria, where Melbourne is located, and around Sydney in New South Wales where the third Test will be played from January 7.
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Osaka overcomes Azarenka for second US Open title

By The SATimes News Service

New York: Fourth seed Naomi Osaka outlasted an inspired Victoria Azarenka 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final to win the women’s singles title of the US Open.

It’s Osaka’s second US Open title and third Grand Slam title after her victories at the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open.

“In the end all I focus on is what I can control on the tennis court. That’s what I did in the 2018 final. I feel like that’s what I did this time,” said the 22-year-old Japanese. Osaka had previously defeated Serena Williams to win the 2018 title.

Belarus’s Azarenka, 31, stormed to win the first set 6-1 in just 26 minutes while Osaka was uncharacteristically sloppy hitting a whopping 13 unforced errors.

At the start of the second set, Azarenka broke again for a 2-0 lead, but from there Osaka fought back to break her opponent’s serve twice and took a 4-3 lead.

Osaka then gained the momentum and broke a third time to take the match to a deciding set.

“I think in the first set I was so nervous, I wasn’t moving my feet. I felt like I was not playing to my best. There are too many things in my head. It would be very embarrassing to lose this in under an hour so I just have to try my best,” Osaka said of the turnaround.

Osaka broke in the fourth game of the third set to take a comfortable 3-1 lead. In the next game, Azarenka blew a golden opportunity to get back into the match, wasting all three break points as Osaka recovered from 0-40 down to hold for a 4-1 lead.

After that, Osaka dominated and claimed the set 6-3.

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US Open to be held in Queens end of summer sans spectators

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday morning that the US Open tennis tournament will indeed take place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens later this summer—but with no spectators in the stands.

“We’re excited about the U.S. Open, [which] is going to be held in Queens, August 31st through September 13th. It will be held without fans, but you can watch it on TV—and I’ll take that,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing. “The tennis authorities are going to be taking extraordinary precautions, but that’s going to take place.”

He later specified that those precautions will include “robust testing, additional cleaning, extra locker room space, and dedicated housing & transportation.”

“We are incredibly excited that Governor Cuomo and New York State have today approved our plan to host the 2020 U.S. Open,” Mike Dowse, USTA chief executive officer and executive director, said in a statement. “We recognize the tremendous responsibility of hosting one of the first global sporting events in these challenging times, and we will do so in the safest manner possible, mitigating all potential risks. We now can give fans around the world the chance to watch tennis’ top athletes compete for a U.S. Open title, and we can showcase tennis as the ideal social distancing sport.”

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