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Mirabai Chanu aims to better her own world record at Commonwealth Games: I will compete with myself

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Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Mirabai Chanu, who will enter Birmingham as the title favourite, said that she herself will be her real competitor in the Commonwealth Games.

Chanu’s personal best is 207kg (88kg+119kg) which is far better than the best effort of Nigeria’s Stella Kingsley, who is her nearest rival and has managed only 168kg (72kg+96kg) to date.

“CWG will be easy for me. I will be fighting with myself,” Chanu, who already has a silver (2014) and a gold (2018) at CWG, asserts politely.

“There is not much competition in CWG, but that doesn’t man there is no competition. I have to give my best performance keeping in mind the future tournaments,” she said during a candid chat at Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports (NIS).

Since there won’t be competition, Chanu has bigger targets in mind.

She is eager to rewrite her own clean and jerk world record of 119kg.

“I am thinking of attempting 120kg in the CWG.”

The former world champion also wants to breach the much-anticipated 90kg mark in the snatch section, which she confesses has become somewhat of a mental block.

“Yes (it has become a mental block). We have planned to lift 91kg or 92kg at the CWG. Hopefully, it will happen.”

But lifting close to twice your body weight is easier said than done specially when Chanu still struggles with a shoulder imbalance.

Earlier this month, she failed to improve her snatch lift, unable to hoist 89kg twice at a domestic event due to her back.

“My back became stiff (tight) 2-3 days before going. The journey to Nagrota was also five hours. We went form Patiala to Chandigarh a day before the tournament, then took a flight from Chandigarh, which was also late. So the back became more tight.”

Aware of her weakness in snatch, Chanu has worked on tweaking her technique.

“I haven’t gone above 88kg. That is the weight I have set. But training wise right now I am better placed than I was at the Olympics.

“To lift 90kg in a competition, we set the weight between 80-90kg which we lift consistently everyday. It’s not like we lift 90kg everyday,” she explains.

Her personal best of 88kg is 8kg less than Tokyo gold medallist China’s Hou Zhihui’s world record lift of 96kg.

“I have changed my snatch technique. In snatch, while rising, the toes, back and shoulder should be in a line. Back and shoulders are very important they need to move fast. Earlier my movement was not synchronised. Now I have changed it.”

Chanu conceded that she feels compelled to compensate her frailty in snatch by lifting more in clean and jerk.

“Yes, I feel if not one, then in the other I have to improve. To reach 96kg, it will take some time and it will be a little difficult for me.

“93kg-94kg I can reach. If I perform well in clean and jerk I can get the same total (as the Chinese) or even more.”

Will wear my Olympic earrings at CWG

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Chanu, who will be vying for her third CWG medal, will once again be wearing her gold earrings shaped like Olympic rings, which had stolen the show at the Tokyo Games.

The earring were a gift from her mother, who had sold her own jewellery ahead of the Rio Games, in hope that it would bring her daughter luck. And luck it brought.

“I will wear those earrings at the Commonwealth Games. They brought me luck in Tokyo,” Chanu said with an ear to ear grin.

Up and downs in Life

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After she won the silver at Tokyo Games, in a heart-warming gesture Chanu felicitated the truck drivers who used to give her free rides till her training academy in Imphal, which was about 30km away from her village.

“I found all the truck drivers and because of Corona they were all sitting at home,” Chanu reminisced.

“They were really happy. I saw them and I thought of those days when they used to keep blowing their truck horns and I would run to get a lift. When I reflect, I remember all the difficulties I had to go through to reach here. But what to do, life is a cycle, kabhi upar kabhi neeche.”

Chanu had missed the last edition of Asian Championship due to a back injury. And the wait for a medal at the continental event has increased as this year’s Asiad has been postponed indefinitely.

“Asian Games is the only medal left. Now I want that.”

“On the one hand, it’s good that it has been postponed. On the other hand it will now be held closer to the Olympics. I have got time for training. But now it will be held alongside other Olympic qualifiers which means I will have to be in competition through out that period.”

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Mark Webber predicts Max Verstappen to cruise to Driver’s Championship win: Wrap it up with three races to go

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Mark Webber has claimed that Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will cruise to the Formula One Driver’s Championship and wrap things up with three races remaining.

The reigning World Champion has been on a roll recently and secured his sixth win of the season in Canada. He currently sits on top of the Driver’s standings and has a 46-point advantage over teammate Sergio Perez. He also has a lead of 49 points over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Speaking to the Guardian, Webber said that his former team will continue to dominate the season and they have an answer for everything at the moment.

“Red Bull will continue to dominate this championship. They have a car that is very good on downforce levels, on all compounds of tyre. It’s like a tennis player on all surfaces or a golfer on all holes, short, long, chipping, putting, driving, the Red Bull can do everything. Red Bull have pretty much an answer for anything at the moment, Max could wrap it up with three races to go,” said Webber.

The Australian also opened up on Red Bull favouring Verstappen over Perez and said that the 24-year-old is clearly on the rise at the moment.

“I like Sergio a lot but over the course of the season, over time, Max will just find a way to start accumulating bigger points. In Azerbaijan Max drove away down the road, it was a very emphatic victory. Then in Canada it’s raining, it’s dry, it’s cold, it’s tricky and Max all weekend was phenomenal,” said Webber.

The former driver also expressed his admiration for the depth and continuity maintained by Red Bull since his days with the team.

“I know deep down they like the heat, delivering under pressure. Strategically they are brave, they are quite free, even with the trophy cabinet they have, they don’t have paralysis by analysis. Give them a job and they just get on with it. Hanna Schmitz, the race strategist, she was there when I was there. The same people have been through the tough times and the great times, that’s something I really admire,” said Webber.

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Coach Chandrakant Pandit emotional after MP win maiden Ranji Trophy title: Father couldn’t but son has done it

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Madhya Pradesh coach Chandrakant Pandit was finding it hard to control his emotions after Aditya Shrivastava’s men ended their long wait for the Ranji Trophy title. Madhya Pradesh defeated heavyweights and 41-time champions Mumbai to win their first-ever title in the premier domestic tournament.

It was a memorable return to the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru for Chandrakant Pandit, who had lost the only other Ranji Trophy final Madhya Pradesh contested — 1988-89 — as captain to Karnataka. 23 years later, it was under Pandit’s watch that Madhya Pradesh clinched history.

“It was a great memory. I left it 23 years back on the same ground. With God’s blessings, we came back here and winning this trophy was fabulous. I am becoming a little emotional because I missed out when I was captain to win this trophy on the same ground. But after 23 years, some say ‘father could not do it but the son has done it’. Aditya Shrivastava has done tremendously well,” Chandrakant Pandit, the former India cricketer, told Star Sports on Sunday.

Having taken over the job of Madhya Pradesh’s coach in March 2020, Chandrakant Pandit moulded a winning side that went about its job with a lot of confidence and clarity in the ongoing season. After bowling out Mumbai for 374 in their first innings, Madhya Pradesh rode on three centurions Yash Dubey, Shubham Sharma, and Rajat Patidar to take a 161-run first-innings lead.

Madhya Pradesh did not settle for a draw that could have given them a victory but Pandit’s boys went for the kill, clinching their first outright win over Mumbai in their Ranji Trophy history. Despite a fifty from Suved Parkar and a handy contribution from Sarfaraz Khan, Mumbai were bundled out for 269 in the second innings, thanks to a 4-wicket haul from Kumar Kartikeya.

MP had to chase only 108 runs in the final innings at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and they got past the finish line with local favourite Patidar hitting the winning runs.

‘I DID NOT HESITATE’

Chandrakant Pandit re-established his credentials as one of the reputed coaches in the domestic circuit, having won 4 Ranji Trophy titles in the last 7 years. Incidentally, he had been the coach of Mumbai in 2015-16 when they won the trophy after which Pandit oversaw Vidarbha’s winning campaigns in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Pandit said he had received multiple offers before he took up the role at Madhya Pradesh and explained his rationale behind coaching a young side.

“There is no particular reason but I look for a challenging job where the teams are not doing well. There also should be youngsters to develop that particular state. I used to play for MP and played for them for six years,

“I knew the culture and when the offer came to me in March (2020), I did not hesitate. There were a couple of offers but I chose MP because I had left something 23 years back and God willingly brought me back to the same state. Sometimes the talent is there but you need to develop the culture and whatever the game demands, I try to inculcate them,” Pandit added.



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Ranji Trophy 2022 Final: Madhya Pradesh script history, win maiden title after 6-wicket win over Mumbai

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Madhya Pradesh scripted history on Sunday in Bengaluru as they won their first-ever Ranji Trophy title. MP, led by Aditya Shrivastava, defeated 41-time champions Mumbai in the final by 6 wickets at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Rajat Patidar, who is fast-rising to be one of the prominent names in Indian cricket, hit the winning runs as Madhya Pradesh chased down a 108-run target on Day 5 of the final. MP lost 4 wickets but Patidar kept a calm head and hit the winning runs, sending the players into a frenzy.

This was also Madhya Pradesh’s first outright win over Mumbai in a Ranji Trophy match as their bowlers did a fantastic job, bowling out Mumbai for 259 on the final day before their batters brushed aside an ordinary total.

Ranji Trophy has had 4 first-time winners in the last 5 seasons as Madhya Pradesh join the likes of Saurashtra, Vidarbha and Gujarat.

In front of a considerable crowd in Bengaluru, the Madhya Pradesh players celebrated with their coach Chandrakant Pandit leading the team huddle. Notably, it was Pandit who led Madhya Pradesh to their first final in the 1988-89 season but they lost to Karnataka in Bengaluru. 23 years later, it was under his watch that MP won the title.

KUMAR KARTIKEYA SHINES

Mumbai began the final day from their overnight score of 113 for 2 after captain Prithvi Shaw had gotten off to a quick start along with wicketkeeper Hardik Tamore. The onus to score quick fell on Arman Jaffer and Suved Parkar and the two batters began well.

Parkar hit a quickfire 51 following which Sarfaraz Khan hit a 45-ball 48, taking his tally to 982 runs – a dream campaign in which he hit 4 hundreds and 2 fifties. However, wickets started tumbling as Mumbai were under pressure to score quickly and give enough time for their bowlers to bowl out Madhya Pradesh in the final innings.

Mumbai were always behind in the second innings after having conceded a 161-run lead in the first innings.

Yashasvi Jaiswal, who batted at No. 6, fell for 1 following which there was no considerable contribution from the lower order. With Kumar Kartikeya picking up 4 wickets, Madhya Pradesh bowled out Mumbai for 269 and made sure they did not chase more than 108 runs.

PATIDAR DOES THE JOB!

In response, Madhya Pradesh lost opener and first-innings centurion Yash Dubey for 1. However, Himanshu Mantri and Shubman Sharma hit 37 and 30, respectively to take MP closer to the finish line.

Shubham Sharma,who hit 113 in the first innings, threw his wicket away, looking for a glory shot when 7 runs were needed but Patidar, who also hit a hundred in the first innings, got the job done.

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India need to regroup: Cheteshwar Pujara wary of big gap between games ahead of Test match vs England

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Cheteshwar Pujara was dropped from the Test team over complaints about his strike rate and approach after the commencement of the South Africa series.

Cheteshwar Pujara plays a shot for India. (Courtesy: BCCI/PTI)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • India vs England’s final Test was rescheduled
  • England have moved away from the leadership of Joe Root
  • Ben Stokes’ England pose fresh challenges for Rohit Sharma’s India

India are set to take on England in the rescheduled fifth Test match of the 2021 series with expectations to seal the series, which they lead by a margin of 2-1. A spirited India, led by Virat Kohli blew away Joe Root’s conservative England taking the lead in the series.

A lot has happened to both the teams then. Both captains have relinquished their positions and some key personnel changes has also been made to the team.

Senior India batter Cheteshwar Pujara spoke ahead of the game, stressing on the same issue, and sai that the long break between the two matches of the series means that India need to regroup ahead of taking on Ben Stokes’ England.

“It is after a long time. So we just need to regroup. We just need to understand our strengths. The good part for us is we are here early. So there is plenty of time to prepare for all the players,” Pujara said in an interview with the BCCI, during India’s practice match vs Leicester.

“I think the most important thing is we have a good bunch of players. We have quality fast bowlers. So the way the guys did in the last four matches here, I am sure they are eager to do the same thing again. If we can win this particular Test and win this series on English soil, I think it will probably be one of the best victories for India. All of us are looking forward to this Test match.”

India will be faced with new challenges against an aggressive Ben Stokes side, who have been in brilliant form against New Zealand at home.

“I think it’s a good challenge for us, yes, we are 2-1 ahead in the series, but at the same time, this is the most important Test match of the series.”

“And yeah, if we play to our potential, if we stick to our strengths, understand what we need as a team and what has given us success in those four Test matches which we played here, we just need to repeat those things,” Pujara added.

India’s Test match against England starts on 1 July.

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Wimbledon 2022: Novak Djokovic maintains no vaccine stand despite risk of missing out on US Open

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Novak Djokovic has reiterated his stand on not taking a Covid-19 vaccine even if it leads to his exclusion from US Open later this year. The 20-time Grand Slam champion, speaking in the lead-up to the Wimbledon 2022 campaign, said he can’t do much about a potential US Open ban at the moment.

Wimbledon might be Djokovic’s last Grand Slam appearance until the French Open next year as the United States government has made vaccination mandatory to enter the country. Notably, Djokovic was deported from Australia earlier this year for not being vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

Djokovic lost 2000 ranking points after he was denied an opportunity to defend his Australian Open crown. The Serbian star will lose another 2000 points, regardless of whether or not he wins Wimbledon because the grass-court Grand Slam has been stripped off ranking points after it banned Russia and Belarusian players.

Djokovic said the potential US Open ban is only making him extra motivated to do well at the Wimbledon, starting Monday, June 27. The top seed is bidding to become only the 4th man in Open Era to win the Wimbledon crown 4 times on the trot.

“As of today, I am not allowed to enter the (United) States under these circumstances. Yes, of course, I am aware of that. That is an extra motivation to do well here (at the Wimbledon Championships). Hopefully, I can have a very good tournament, as I have done in the last three editions,” Djokovic said in London.

“Then I will just have to wait and see. I would love to go to (the United) States. But, as of today, that is not possible. There is not much I can do any more. I mean, it is really up to the U.S. government to make a decision whether or not they allow unvaccinated people to go into the country,” he added.

When asked if he was not planning to take the vaccine despite the availability of time to take the jab before the US Open, Djokovic responded in the affirmative.

“Yes,” he added.

Djokovic had made it clear at the start of the year that he was willing to miss tournaments over the vaccine. The Serb had said in February earlier this year that he is not against the vaccines for Covid-19 but he wants the freedom to choose “what you put in your body”.

DJOKOVIC EYES SAMPRAS’ RECORD

Meanwhile, Djokovic also said emulating Pete Sampras’s Wimbledon record would be a dream come true for him. The Serb is bidding to win his 7th Wimbledon crown, which will put him on level terms with Sampras and one behind Roger Federer’s tally of 8 Wimbledon titles.

“I would love to be in a position to fight for another trophy,” Djokovic added.

“Pete Sampras, winning his first Wimbledon, was the first tennis match I ever saw on the TV. So, of course, there’s a lot of connection to this tournament.

“Pete has won it seven times. Hopefully, yeah, I can do the same this year.”

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Very deserving of coming close to a Test squad: Sanjay Manjrekar backs Sarfaraz Khan after prolific form

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Mumbai might have failed to put up a strong show in the final of the Ranji Trophy, but Sarfaraz Khan continued to shine with his tremendous abilities.

Sarfaraz Khan celebrates after scoring a ton in the Ranji Final. (Courtesy: BCCI/PTI)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Sarfaraz Khan has been brilliant throughout the Ranji campaign
  • Sarfaraz Khan scored a century in the Ranji Trophy final
  • India are hunting for middle order replacements in their team

Mumbai batsman Sarfaraz Khan capped off his stellar Ranji Trophy with a fighting century in the first innings of the final game, and a quickfire 45 in the second innings, when Mumbai were looking for runs in a rapid manner.

Sarfaraz, who has consistently done well in the past two seasons of the Ranji Trophy has opened up the selection debate once again for the Indian Test side. With Ajinkya Rahane benched and Cheteshwar Pujara on his final legs, India are in need of a middle order batsman. Sarfaraz Khan fits in the role, and according to the need, has the flexibility to hold or score rapid runs in red-ball cricket.

Speaking about the same, former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar has stated that the right hander from Mumbai might be of Test potential.

“Because of the way he bats, you sort of wonder whether he’s a Test potential kind of a player. But the amount of runs he’s got in the last two seasons – and he doesn’t get 103, 104, he gets big scores and it comes very quickly as well at a great strike rate,” Manjrekar said during a press conference organised by the Sony Sports Network.

“So even if you don’t have a spot readily available – you want to try out the incumbents first, because Shreyas Iyer has grabbed the opportunity as a Test batter by getting runs – there is absolutely no harm in getting Sarfaraz Khan in closer to the Indian Test squad,” Manjrekar said.

Manjrekar further argued that it was time for BCCI to show some care about Ranji Trophy and a selection might encourage players to put more weight on the tournament.

“Because when someone performs this heavily at the Ranji Trophy level, it’s also to a message that we care about Ranji Trophy. We care about our First Class cricket. And when you recognise performances of your Ranji Trophy cricket and reward the players with recognition at the Test level, then you also elevate the importance of Ranji Trophy level,” he explained.

“He is very deserving of coming close to a Test squad selection even if not in the playing XI,” Manjrekar concluded.

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SL vs AUS | Nathan Lyon reveals details about chat with Rangana Hearth that changed his career at subcontinent

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Australia are scheduled to take on Sri Lanka in a two-match Test series with the hopes of maintaining their stronghold in the World Test Championships. The Pat Cummins-led team has already decimated England at home, and have been able to eke out a result in their favour during the historic tour of Pakistan.

However, playing Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka is different gravy. Australia will be hoping for their ace spinner Nathan Lyon to come good and trouble the opposition batters. SL pitches have shown the tendency to support turn from day one itself, and Cummins would hope that this time around, the spin department can take up the majority of the headache.

Ahead of the first Test match, Nathan Lyon delved into bowling in the subcontinent, and spoke about how Rangana Hearth changed his entire outlook while bowling in subcontinental Test matches.

“I had a conversation with him after the Test series (in 2016),” Lyon was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.

“I said, ‘What do you do that I don’t do?’ And he said, ‘I know that if I put the ball in one spot, you blokes will stuff up’. Those were his exact words.

“That’s a pretty simple mindset. (What) I took out of it was, the secret to everyone’s success is if you can challenge their defence for long periods of time, you’ll be able to create chances.

“That’s what (Herath) did extremely well. He challenged our defence for long periods of time, and he got the rewards.”

Lyon’s numbers were substandard till 2016 in the spin conditions of the subcontinent but improved considerably after that period.

Lyon also talked about gaining knowledge from Muttiah Muralitharan, who he considered one of the greatest to have ever graced the game.

“I trained with Murali, batted against Murali, bowled with Murali for two or three hours a day,” said Lyon, recollecting his first experience with the legendary off-spinner, during a week-long camp at Colombo’s SSC ground in 2014.

“So it was pretty remarkable spending time with him here in Sri Lanka, probably the greatest Sri Lankan cricketer to ever play the game, definitely the greatest (Sri Lankan) bowler.

“Talking to Murali, it’s not about me trying to bowl like him, it’s more of a mindset thing. I think I’ve been able to really learn off so many people around the world, but Murali’s mindset was pretty unique,” Lyon said.

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There’s still good tennis left in me: Andy Murray upbeat ahead of Wimbledon 2022 campaign

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Former World No. 1 Andy Murray said he is feeling confident ahead of his Wimbledon 2022 campaign after having recovered from an abdominal injury that threatened his participation in the grass-court Grand Slam. The Scott, ranked No. 51, is looking to make a splash at Wimbledon where he won his titles in 2013 and 2016.

Murray had been bogged down by a persistent hip injury that even forced him to consider retirement a couple of years ago but the 3-time Grand Slam champion has been in a good run of form in the 2022 season. Murray reached the final of the Stuttgart Open earlier this month and clinched his first top 10 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas but the injury concern affected his show in the final against Matteo Berrettini.

Murray opted out of the Queen’s Club tournament, throwing his Wimbledon participation in doubt but the 35-year-old returned to train at SW19 ahead of the grass-court Grand Slam, starting Monday, June 27.

Speaking to reporters in the lead-up to Wimbledon 2022, Murray said his recovery from the abdominal injury has gone well.

“It’s gone well. I’ve been able to gradually progress my training this week and got to play a few sets, and a lot of points. The last few days have been good,” Murray said.

MURRAY HOPING FOR BEST AT WIMBLEDON

Having done well in Stuttgart Open, Murray is confident he can make waves at Wimbledon. The veteran player will open his campaign against World No. 77, James Duckworth of Australia, in the men’s singles campaign and he faces a potential 2nd-round match against 20th seed John Isner.

“I think I showed a couple weeks ago that there was still good tennis left in me,” Murray said.

“I beat a guy in the top five, I was neck-and-neck with Berrettini, who is one of the best grasscourt players in the world before the injury.

“I played well against Kyrgios, as well. The first set was a good level. And I’ve been doing pretty well in practices. I know the tennis is in there; I just need to bring it out during the event now.”

Murray spoke highly of his coach Ivan Lendl, saying the familiarity factor has been helping him do well in the ongoing season.

“Having Ivan (Lendl) on my team helps. We’ve had a lot of success in the past. We know each other well. He still believes in me. There are not loads of coaches, people out there that have done over this last period, and he has. That definitely helps.”

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India tour of Ireland: Every match important if India have to win T20 World Cup, says Hardik Pandya

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India captain Hardik Pandya said on the eve of the T20I series against Ireland that the tourists will not take their opposition lightly despite having a perfect record in the shortest format of the game. India will play Ireland in a 2-match T20I series in Dublin on June 26 and 28.

Hardik Pandya will lead India’s white-ball specialists in the 2 T20Is as the Baroda all-rounder has got the honour of leading the side after an impressive Indian Premier League campaign as the captain of eventual champions Gujarat Titans.

Hardik was named captain for the T20Is in Ireland as India’s Test specialists are preparing for the rescheduled 5th Test against England, which will get underway in Birmingham from July 1. The Test regulars are involved in a 4-day practice match against Leicestershire.

India have not traveled with their best T20I XI but Hardik-led side has enough firepower to outclass Ireland. Notably, India are heading into the series after having drawn a home series 2-2 against South Africa under Rishabh Pant’s captaincy.

Hardik, who is working with VVS Laxman who has traveled to Ireland as India’s head coach, said India will look to never let the momentum go in the T20 World Cup year.

“It’s a challenge mentally, it is easier to say that we are playing against Ireland but playing for India is the biggest pride. If we want to win the World Cup, every match from here is important for us to reach the World Cup final,” Hardik told the press on the eve of the 1st T20I in Dublin.

The first thing I said to all is that it doesn’t matter whom we are playing, we need to focus on our own things.

“We keep the same intensity we generally keep even if we are playing the World Cup or a big series. Again it comes down to mental strength, how better you can get because it’s not easy in two matches getting yourself on but at the same time we are playing for India and we have to be on our A-game which we will,” Hardik added.

India have a 3-0 record against Ireland in T20 cricket. After winning their first-ever meeting in 2009, India dominated Ireland in Dublin under Virat Kohli’s captaincy before their tour of England in 2018.

HARDIK ON INDIA’S ENVIOUS BENCH STRENGTH

Despite not having their Test regulars, India have a power-packed T20I team with the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishan Kishan, Dinesh Karthik, Suryakumar Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal donning the role of the senior members in the squad.

Taking pride in India’s envious bench strength, Hardik said: “If such a situation arises that we have to send two teams, we are very lucky that we have the bench strength where we can allow the players to go and express and a lot of people will get opportunities.

“There are so much talent in India that people don’t get opportunities. Playing for India is always a dream and for them to achieve that dream will be really fantastic,” he said.

Notably, India trained for the first time after arriving in Ireland under the watchful eyes of Laxman on Saturday.

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