Atalanta shake-up with Man City?

first_img Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £11.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit: https://subscribe.premiersports.tv/ There are growing reports Atalanta will start Josip Ilicic as a makeshift centre-forward supported by Papu Gomez and Ruslan Malinovskyi against Manchester City. The Champions League tie kicks off at the Etihad at 20.00 UK time (19.00 GMT). Gian Piero Gasperini is forced to do without hitman Duvan Zapata, who returned from international duty with Colombia suffering from a thigh strain. It was assumed that Luis Muriel would replace his fellow countryman, but Gasp likes to keep options off the bench to shake up the game in the second half. With that in mind, and Manchester City’s star-studded squad, Gasp could opt to start Ilicic as a False 9 with support from Gomez and Malinovskyi. Decisions in defence are foisted upon him, because Simon Kjaer and Jose Luis Palomino are injured, so Berat Djimsiti has to play even with flu symptoms. Sky Sport Italia report the possibility of another surprise twist, leaving out Hans Hateboer in favour of Robin Gosens. Meanwhile, there was good news for Atalanta from the UEFA Youth League, as they beat Manchester City 3-1 this afternoon. Ian Poveda had put the hosts in front, but the Orobici teens turned it all around with goals from Davide Angelo Ghislandi, Roberto Piccoli and Diallo Amad Traore. Atalanta (probable): Gollini; Toloi, Djimsiti, Masiello; Castagne, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Gomez, Malikovskyi; Iliciclast_img read more

Football World Cup champion Spain return home to a heroes’ welcome

first_imgThe Spanish team returned to a heroes’ welcome to the country after they defeated Netherlands to lift their first FIFA World Cup trophy.Players landed at Madrid’s Barajas airport shortly before 3 p.m. (1300 GMT, 9 a.m. EDT).A huge crowd had gathered at the airport to welcome the team which emerged from the plane with keeper Iker Casillas, coach Vicente del Bosque and the golden trophy.The team was reportedly received by the Spanish king after they rested in a hotel. They are also said to have met Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero before taking an open top bus ride through the national capital.Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 on Sunday in extra time.Spanish player Iniesta scored the winner in the 116th minute after both the sides were locked goal-less in the regulation 90 minutes in an ill-tempered grand finale which saw the ejection of Dutch defender John Heitinga in the 110th minute for his second booking and another 12 yellow cards being shown.New world champions Spain, the eighth such team in history, now join Brazil (five titles), Italy (four), Germany (three), Argentina (two), Uruguay (two), France (one) and England (one).last_img read more

CWG: Firm gives up sponsorship incentive

first_imgA Singapore-based company hired to get sponsorships for the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG) has said it will forego its contractual right to commissions on sponsorship money it did not generate. Headlines Today had reported how Sports Marketing and Management Private Limited (SMAM) – as per a contract with CWG organisers – was to get commission even for sponsorships secured from other sources.  While the company got no sponsor for the Games in the last three years, it was earning Rs 50 crore as commission for contributions made by Indian PSUs. SMAM on Wednesday reacted to the Headlines Today report, saying it will give up its right to contracted remuneration from PSU sponsorships. Instead, it will only charge a management service fee to cover costs related to delivery and servicing of sponsorship benefits. SMAM said all allegations against it were baseless and denied being under investigation from any government authority. The deal to get sponsors was signed with SMAM in 2007. As per the contract, revenue up to 50 million dollars would bring the company a commission of 14.25 per cent. Anything between 50 million and 100 million dollars will bring a commission of 18.5 per cent. The commission will be 20.5 per cent for sponsorship deals over 100 million dollars.last_img read more

Ind vs WI: Bravo puts Windies on pedestal

first_imgDarren Bravo scored a massive century even as Indian bowlers continued to toil on the second day of the third Test at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday. Score | PhotosClearly the curator Sudhir Naik would have kept Sachin Tendulkar’s elusive 100th international ton in mind while designing the pitch. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t have thought that the same pitch would end up tormenting the India bowlers even as West Indies batsmen piled on run aplenty. At the end of the innings they were sitting pretty on 575/9.West Indies started the day on 267/2 with Kirk Edwards and Darren Bravo in the middle. The two bat with confidence to counter India skipper MS Dhoni’s plans for an early dismissal.Like the Day 1, Dhoni again utilised a spinner, Pragyan Ojha, and pacer, Varun Aaron, in tandem to unsettle the batsmen. However, the two stayed frim as the Windies score went past 300 runs.Eventually Dhoni’s plan did work as paceman Ishant Sharma, who too was being utilised in tandem with a spinner, got the better of Kirk Edwards when the WI score was 314. Edwards failed to read Ishant’s line and an edge off his bat was nicely taken by Dhoni behind the stumps and the man departed after posting a fine 86. He and Bravo put on 164 runs for the third wicket.Soon Bravo was past his century. A four off R Ashwin saw him reach his third century in Tests. His second came during the Eden Test match, where he put up a brave front when the Windies were following on.advertisementAt lunch West Indies were 378/3 with Bravo (105) and Kieran Powell (38) at the crease.The second session saw the Windies score venture past the 400-run mark as Bravo and Powell continued to bat on at ease. Soon Powell was past his half-century, becoming the third WI batsman to score a half-century in the innings.India skipper MS Dhoni brought in Sachin Tendulkar into the attack, but it was left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who eventually broke the Bravo-Powell 160-run partnership minutes before tea. Ojha’s turner that was pitched outside off gained in speed and took the edge of his bat and skipper Dhoni took a neat catch behind the stumps. He fell for 81 and West Indies lost their fourth wicket on 474.At tea the West Indies score was an impressive 494/4 with Bravo (156) and Marlon Samuels at the crease.The third session proved a lot better for the hosts for five wicket fell in it, but it wasn’t without some impressive bowling by 22-year old Varun Aaron, billed as India’s fastest pacer.The man accounted to the prized wicket of Bravo, which also was his maiden Test wicket. A length ball that kept low took the edge of Bravo’s bat to land in the safe gloves of Dhoni. Bravo departed after posting a massive 166 runs on board puntuating his innings with 17 fours. West Indies lost their fifth wicket on 524.In his next over Aaron struck again to despatch Carlton Baugh cheaply as West Indies lost their sixth wicket on the same total. But he wasn’t finished as he came around to get rid of opposition skipper Darren Sammy and West Indies lost their seventh wicket on 540.Tail-ender Ravi Rampaul didn’t last long and fell to a R Ashwin turner at in the final overs of the day.Samuels, who was way past his half century and was looking ahead for a big total fell to Ashwin on 61 as West Indies closed the day on 575/9.last_img read more

Ceres, Global try to seal title berths

first_imgBACOLOD CITY—Ceres Negros and Global Cebu aim to build on their first leg advantage as they gun for finals berths when they clash with different foes in the Philippines Football League on Saturday.The Busmen who beat Kaya Makati, 1-0, on Sunday on Stephan Schrock’s stoppage time strike, hope to get the job done at Panaad Stadium where they have lost only once this year.ADVERTISEMENT ‘A complete lie:’ Drilon refutes ‘blabbermouth’ Salo’s claims Aggregate scores will determine the winner of the two semifinals duels with the away goals rule applied in the event of a tie. Extra time will be played if ties are not broken after the two legs.The semifinal matches carry a huge incentive with the winners not only disputing the maiden PFL trophy but also gaining automatic berths to the group stage of the AFC Cup as announced by the Asian Football Confederation early this week.The PFL champion will also earn a qualifying spot in the top-tier AFC Champions League in January, but it will still have the AFC Cup to return to in the event that it fails to advance. The Philippines could have three clubs playing continental football next year if the PFL champion reaches the AFC Champions League group stage as the PFL third place team will qualify for the AFC Cup.ADVERTISEMENT Malditas save PH from shutout Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Hotel says PH coach apologized for ‘kikiam for breakfast’ claim LATEST STORIES The Fatted Calf and Ayutthaya: New restos worth the drive to Tagaytay Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Rivals Petron, Foton face off; Cocolife tries to stretch upset run vs F2center_img After 30 years, Johnlu Koa still doing ‘hard-to-make’ quality breads Jordan delivers on promise: 2 Cobra choppers now in PH MOST READ Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss PLAY LIST 02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games “We know Kaya will do everything to win, but you can be sure that we can do everything to win as well,” said Schrock. “We don’t want to disappoint our supporters here.”Global, the fourth seed, seeks to complete a stunning reversal against top seed Meralco Manila in the simultaneous kickoff at 7 p.m. at Rizal Memorial Stadium.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSBoxers Pacquiao, Petecio torchbearers for SEA Games openingDespite struggling for majority of the match, coach Akbar Nawas’ side still came away with a thrilling 2-1 win in the first leg thanks to late goals from Wesley Dos Santos and Pika Minegishi on Saturday.But Tahj Minniecon also scored what could be a critical away goal for the Sparks, who only need a 1-0 victory to advance to the finals. MRT 7 on track for partial opening in 2021 View comments Ethel Booba on hotel’s clarification that ‘kikiam’ is ‘chicken sausage’: ‘Kung di pa pansinin, baka isipin nila ok lang’last_img read more

Holm aiming for upset of Justino, 2nd title belt at UFC 219

first_imgWhile Justino would be the favorite in any bout, Holm is intriguing because of her highs and her lows.She stopped Rousey with that vicious head kick and earned instant fame beyond her sport, but then she followed up with three consecutive defeats, including a lackluster decision loss to Germaine de Randamie in February for the inaugural women’s UFC featherweight title.When de Randamie gave up the belt rather than fight Justino in her first defense, Justino claimed the strap with a win over Tonya Evinger in July. Holm ended her skid with a stoppage of Bethe Correia in June and then booked her second shot at the featherweight title.While Holm could make MMA history with a win over Justino to claim a belt in her second weight class, this fight also presents a chance for Justino to beat the most famous female fighter aside from Rousey, whose career appears to be over one year after her comeback loss to Amanda Nunes.Holm and Justino are both accomplished strikers with polished punching skills, so it won’t be a surprise if this bout is contested on the feet. Holm’s style appears to give her a chance against Justino, who hasn’t faced many strikers with Holm’s ability.And while Holm is the underdog, she is determined to enjoy her chance to become a two-belt champion.“It’s not just any fight card in Vegas,” Holm said. “It’s the last fight card of the year, and it’s a busy time in Vegas. I feel like there’s going to be a lot of energy, and my whole thought is just to take all that energy in and just live in it and be in the moment.” /cbbSports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Jordan delivers on promise: 2 Cobra choppers now in PH The UFC is hoping that plenty of people are wondering what will happen when the promotion wraps up an eventful 2017 with its traditional end-of-the-year show in its hometown.The UFC 219 card also includes the long-awaited return of lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0), who hasn’t fought all year and has been in the cage only three times since April 2014. The Dagestan-born Russian, who missed weight for a much-anticipated bout with new lightweight champion Tony Ferguson in March, will take on Brazil’s Edson Barboza.The pay-per-view portion of the card begins with the return of popular welterweight Carlos Condit, who will take on durable veteran Neil Magny.Justino has won eight straight fights by stoppage, most in brutal fashion. Only her use of performance-enhancing drugs has slowed Justino’s dominance of her division and the women’s sport in general, particularly since she finally joined the UFC last year.“I think Holly is a great fighter for me, because she’s a big name, too,” Justino said. “She has a lot of fights, a lot of experience. I think it would be a great fight.”ADVERTISEMENT Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Belo to the rescue ‘A complete lie:’ Drilon refutes ‘blabbermouth’ Salo’s claims PH military to look into China’s possible security threat to power grid MOST READ Hotel says PH coach apologized for ‘kikiam for breakfast’ claim ‘We cannot afford to fail’ as SEA Games host – Dutertecenter_img BeautyMNL open its first mall pop-up packed with freebies, discounts, and other exclusives Holly Holm of the United States reacts after knocking out Bethe Correia of Brazil during their UFC women’s bantamweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017. AFPHolly Holm has already shocked the sports world with one upset victory over a seemingly unbeatable mixed martial arts champion.She sees no reason she couldn’t do it again when she faces Cris “Cyborg” Justino in the main event of UFC 219 on Saturday night.ADVERTISEMENT Just over two years after Holm (11-3) won the UFC bantamweight title with a jaw-dropping stoppage of Ronda Rousey, Holm is a big underdog when she steps into the T-Mobile Arena cage in Las Vegas to take her shot at Justino (18-1) for the featherweight belt.Justino seems unbeatable. The Brazilian hasn’t lost since her MMA debut in 2005, and she has honed a physical, pounding style that no fighters have solved — or even survived to the bell in any fight since 2008.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSBoxers Pacquiao, Petecio torchbearers for SEA Games openingSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingBut Rousey seemed equally unbeatable when she entered the cage with Holm in Australia — and the whole world saw what happened when Holm kicked Rousey in the head.“I think there are similarities with the feeling of it,” said Holm, who also had her share of impressive wins as a professional boxer before entering MMA. “I think that because I’ve done it more than once now, in boxing and (more prominently) with Ronda, to be the underdog and come in, I think that people think, ‘Oh, OK, well, Holly is capable of doing some things.’ But I feel like there’s more of a curiosity behind it. Not necessarily just thinking I can’t do it, but kind of, ‘Hmm, I wonder if she’s going to do it this time.’” Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss PLAY LIST 02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games Ethel Booba on hotel’s clarification that ‘kikiam’ is ‘chicken sausage’: ‘Kung di pa pansinin, baka isipin nila ok lang’ LATEST STORIES SEA Games: PH still winless in netball after loss to Thais View commentslast_img read more

NBA’s biggest stars set for All-Star Saturday competitions

first_imgMOST READ Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next ‘We cannot afford to fail’ as SEA Games host – Duterte Judiciary Committee set to take over Trump impeachment probe Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James hangs from the basket after dunking in front of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Alex Abrines during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)LOS ANGELES — The NBA’s best players have arrived in Hollywood for a star-studded All-Star weekend.None of those stars currently play for the hometown Lakers or Clippers, and that dearth will be discussed when basketball’s best get together Saturday for practice.ADVERTISEMENT Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss PLAY LIST 02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games BeautyMNL open its first mall pop-up packed with freebies, discounts, and other exclusives Ethel Booba on hotel’s clarification that ‘kikiam’ is ‘chicken sausage’: ‘Kung di pa pansinin, baka isipin nila ok lang’ LeBron James is likely to be asked plenty of media questions about his interest in joining the Lakers, who have cleared salary cap space for two superstars this summer.Paul George, the Oklahoma City All-Star, is from nearby Palmdale, California. He has a well-known love for the Lakers.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSBoxers Pacquiao, Petecio torchbearers for SEA Games openingThe All-Star game also has a big new wrinkle this season: Captains Stephen Curry and James picked their own teams. That draft wasn’t televised, and some stars could have a few good-natured questions about the process. A few hours later Klay Thompson gets warmed up for the three-point competition and Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell sets his sights on the dunk contest. LATEST STORIES After memorable weekend, Mark Barroca back into basketball mode Hotel says PH coach apologized for ‘kikiam for breakfast’ claim PH military to look into China’s possible security threat to power grid SEA Games: PH still winless in netball after loss to Thais ‘A complete lie:’ Drilon refutes ‘blabbermouth’ Salo’s claims View commentslast_img read more

Simmons’ late FTs gives 76ers win over Bulls

first_img‘A complete lie:’ Drilon refutes ‘blabbermouth’ Salo’s claims Philadelphia’s lead was down to 33-29 at the end of the quarter and the Bulls busted out for 40 points in the second to take a 69-67 halftime lead. Chicago was 9 of 12 on 3-pointers in the quarter, including 4 for 5 by Portis.The 76ers were up by five early in the fourth before Portis scored six straight points — on a 3-pointer and a three-point play — to put the Bulls on top 101-100. A few minutes later, Portis dunked over Embiid to stretch the lead to 111-106 with just over four minutes to play.LaVine hit a 3-pointer to make it 115-110 with 1:02 left.“We stole that win,” Embiid said. “We didn’t play well. Offensively, I thought, we were moving the ball when we needed, but defensively I thought we sucked.”TIP-INS76ers: C Embiid has nine straight double-doubles. … Simmons has six triple-doubles this season, which ties him with Wilt Chamberlain (three times) and Billy Cunningham for most in a season in team history.Bulls: To look at some younger players during the final 25 games, C Robin Lopez and G/F Justin Holiday were removed from the starting lineup. Both were inactive on Thursday as Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba (21 points) started; Also, Cameron Payne — who played in his first game on Thursday — will replace Jerian Grant as the backup point guard.“It really is hard,” Hoiberg said. “It’s hard for Robin, it’s hard for Justin and it’s hard for Jerian, who’s probably making as big a sacrifice as anybody.”LOOKING BACKPhiladelphia is on the cusp of a playoff appearance this season, but the organization found itself in the same position as the Bulls the previous few years, playing mostly young players with the unspoken hope of improving draft position.“When I look in the rearview mirror, it’s not as painful as people make it out to be,” coach Brett Brown said. “Losing stinks and the pain of losing is real, but the things that went into growing young players was really enjoyable for me. The development of young guys, giving them opportunities, explaining life in the NBA, what it takes to stay in the NBA, the culture — stuff that nobody sees.”UP NEXT76ers: Host Orlando on Saturday. Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss PLAY LIST 02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games Wizards hold off LeBron, new-look Cavaliers Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons (25) scores off a lob pass from Joel Embiid a Chicago Bulls’ David Nwaba (11) and Lauri Markkanen watch during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Chicago. The 76ers won 116-115. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)CHICAGO — Ben Simmons couldn’t recall winning a game from the free throw line at any level before Thursday night.Still, the rookie stepped to the line with the confidence of a veteran.ADVERTISEMENT ‘We cannot afford to fail’ as SEA Games host – Duterte Ethel Booba on hotel’s clarification that ‘kikiam’ is ‘chicken sausage’: ‘Kung di pa pansinin, baka isipin nila ok lang’ Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. SEA Games: PH still winless in netball after loss to Thais View comments Bulls: Visit Minnesota Saturday night.Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next PH military to look into China’s possible security threat to power grid MOST READ BeautyMNL open its first mall pop-up packed with freebies, discounts, and other exclusives “He’s a guy that continues to grow and develop,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s been fun to see him shooting the ball without any hesitation.”Chicago had a 115-114 lead and the ball with 8 seconds to go before Embiid deflected an inbounds pass to create a turnover. Simmons came up with the ball near halfcourt and was fouled by Denzel Valentine. He made both free throws.“First of all, we needed a steal,” Simmons said. “I saw Joel get it and he kind of lobbed it to me.”Portis had a chance for a game winner, but his short attempt — with Embiid closing from the weak side — just missed.The 76ers raced to a 25-7 lead midway through the first quarter before Portis got hot and Chicago started making 3s.ADVERTISEMENT Simmons scored a career-high 32 points, making two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to complete Philadelphia’s rally from five points down in the final minute, and the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 116-115.“Stepping up to the line, I knew I was going to knock ’em down. You have to have that mentality,” he said.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSBoxers Pacquiao, Petecio torchbearers for SEA Games openingJoel Embiid had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and Simmons added 11 assists and seven rebounds as Philadelphia won its sixth straight and snapped a four-game road losing streak.Bobby Portis had a career-high 38 points and Zach LaVine added 23 for the Bulls, who were 18 for 34 on 3-pointers. Hotel says PH coach apologized for ‘kikiam for breakfast’ claim Judiciary Committee set to take over Trump impeachment probe LATEST STORIESlast_img read more

From Dhoni to the bold and brazen Virat Kohli, India’s troubled Test team has got the reboot it needed

first_imgAdelaide was where he arrived. Adelaide was where he stumbled at the doorstep of greatness. Those elusive 48 runs, as India lost narrowly on the fifth evening despite a century in each innings by their talismanic stand-in captain, will probably rankle all his life. But minutes after the long walk,Adelaide was where he arrived. Adelaide was where he stumbled at the doorstep of greatness. Those elusive 48 runs, as India lost narrowly on the fifth evening despite a century in each innings by their talismanic stand-in captain, will probably rankle all his life. But minutes after the long walk back, bearing the scars of a bloody battle on his psyche and with a funereal dressing room virtually in tears, Virat Kohli made a stirring speech. He had batted like a champion and he spoke like a leader, telling his teammates that they had two choices. They could either pat themselves on the back and claim moral victory for the stunning counterattack on Day 5 of the first Test, or they could try to decipher why they had choked at the finish line once again. It was clear that Kohli was egging them down the second, more uncomfortable, path.Nobody said a word, no one batted an eyelid. The team, the coaching staff, even captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who had sat out of the Test due to an injury, could see that the Crown Prince had signalled his eventual ascension to the throne. “His speech was even better than his batting that day,” one of the players told India Today. “He would have been the most heartbroken after his dismissal and the loss but he lifted the entire dressing room.”With Kohli, there was never a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’. As Dhoni ended 2014 by announcing his retirement from Test cricket, the baton passed from Captain Cool to Captain Hothead. And, as if to signal their future intention in ODIs as well, the selectors called Kohli in Australia for his inputs on the 2015 World Cup team even though Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher had officially attendedthe selection meeting via video conference.advertisementKohli’s elevation promises to be a huge generational switch in Indian cricket, and he has already alerted his teammates about a major cultural change going forward. He’s told them that they will have to play and compete like the Aussies and win Test matches overseas. And he’s backed it up by dropping struggling regulars Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara from the fourth Test in Sydney, his first as India’s full-time Test captain.”This will be Kohli’s team,” said one of India’s most successful captains, Sourav Ganguly, from Sydney. “He will have to now rebuild his dressing room. I am a great fan of his batting and his approach towards the game, so I will be excited to see his transition from being a premium player to being a captain. India’s captaincy can soon turn one’s hair grey with pressure. If winning Tests is indeed his top priority, I am very happy.”There are several reasons why Kohli could prove to be an antidote for the withdrawal symptoms Indian fans have been suffering from ever since the Fab Four of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman called it a day. He is brash (West Indian Chris Gayle and Englishman Kevin Pietersen, after all, are among his best friends) and there has been virtually no session Down Under when he has not had a steaming run-in with an Australian opponent. He wears not just tattoos but also his heart on his sleeve. He has a celebrity girlfriend in actor Anushka Sharma. Yet the 26-year-old makes it a point to turn up on the ground in an old-school baggy blue cap in Tests, stressing that he does care for traditions.In his 33rd Test, Kohli may not have achieved greatness yet but seems to be galloping towards it. A slow starter in this format-he scored a mere 76 runs in his first five innings-Kohli has 10 centuries after the first innings of the fourth Test. That’s a rate of a hundred every 3.3 Tests, marginally behind Sunil Gavaskar’s at an equivalent stage in his career and far ahead of Tendulkar or Dravid. The first-innings century in Sydney also made him the first captain in history to score hundreds in his first three innings at the helm.That Kohli was destined for big things was apparent even before he had played his first Test. Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh had once told him, rather menacingly, on the tour of South Africa in 2010-11: “Agar tune Test cricket mein 10,000 run nahi banaye to phir dekhna (You had better score 10,000 Test runs and do justice to your talent)!”But things weren’t always smooth for him. Kohli first came to Raj Kumar’s West Delhi Coaching Academy as a chubby nine-year-old who was always up to mischief. He improved so dramatically over the next four years that he emerged as the highest run-getter in the Delhi Under-14 league. He was shocked, however, when he was left out of the Delhi state U-14 squad despite his performances. “He cried so much but instead of giving up, he worked doubly hard. When he played for Delhi U-17s two years later, he scored two double centuries,” says the proud Raj Kumar, a former Ranji player himself.advertisementAt 18, Kohli made his Ranji Trophy debut for Delhi in 2006. The first glimpse of his resolve came later in the season when he reached the ground to resume his innings against Karnataka despite his father’s death the previous day. He scored 90, saved the game for Delhi, and left the ground to attend the funeral with tears in his eyes.After leading the India U-19 team to the Youth World Cup win in Malaysia in 2008, Kohli was fast-tracked into international cricket by chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar as he began his ODI career for India in Sri Lanka as an opener-a position where he had never batted even in a club game.And then he went astray.There were concerns about his attitude and love for the high life as Bengaluru became his hub while playing for liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s glamorous Royal Challengers in the Indian Premier League. He lost his way, was dumped from the Indian team, and may have been written off as another promising player who could not live up to his tag. “He had gone off the rails, and my role changed from being his coach to his elder brother,” Raj Kumar confesses. “I would scold him. I had to almost stalk him, and keep asking him about practice. Down and out, he eventually realised that cricket was his only priority, and discipline and dedication were his best friends. Slowly, he found his rhythm and his motivation again.”Kohli became India’s main man in the one-day format soon after his return to the team, and once he scored his first Test century in Adelaide in 2012, Test cricket became a happy hunting ground as well. Apart from the blip in England last year, when he failed to score a half-century in 10 innings, Kohli has earned the tag of being among the most feared batsman in world cricket now.Former India captain Kapil Dev, among the first to spot Kohli when he was director of the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, feels the new Indian skipper has what it takes. “He is an intelligent cricketer. When he’s batting, it’s like he has a compass in his mind and a calculator in his pocket. His natural instinct is to attack, and I’m happy at how well he has recovered from that slump in England,” Dev says.Another of India’s successful captains, Mohammad Azharuddin, says having him at the helm will have a positive impact on the team. But he also has a few words of caution for Kohli: “One, he must mellow down his on-field aggression and avoid confrontation with rivals. Two, his batting could suffer if the team doesn’t do well as leadership can take a toll.”advertisementThe World Cup is Kohli’s next stop. He had scored a century in his debut World Cup game in 2011. After India won the Cup, the most memorable lines had come from him. “He has lifted the nation’s hopes for years,” he had said of Tendulkar, “it was time we lifted him on our shoulders”. In a world notorious for going full circle, India’s hopes rest squarely on Kohli’s shoulders now.Follow the writer on Twitter @vikarantgupta73To read more, get your copy of India Today here.last_img read more

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