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IPL 2020 in UAE: KL Rahul's calm approach has rubbed off on team, says KXIP fielding coach Rhodes

IPL|: Dubai: The quality of fielding in the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League has been brilliant. But two performances that stand out are efforts at the boundary from Kings XI Punjab's Nicholas Pooran and Mayank Agarwal. And the man behind KXIP's impressive show is none other than fielding coach Jonty Rhodes. Speaking to ANI, Rhodes spoke about working hard on fielding drills in training, skipper KL Rahul's influence on the KXIP unit, and most importantly how fielders need to adapt when playing in a semi-closed stadium like the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. KXIP's fielding has been top-class, to say the least. But Rhodes says it is all the hard work of the boys during training that reflects on the field of play. The pride though is evident in the tone. "As a fielding coach there is great pride when you see the players performing on the field because all you are asking them is to give their 100 per cent and go for every opportunity. I am not worried about the end result. With Pooran and Mayank's efforts, we work with players in pairs saving the ball and returning it to the infield, and completing catches which is a big ask sometimes. "For Pooran, to complete the catch and release it, he was mid-air and parallel to the ground when he took it and then to time the release. Even Glenn Maxwell was there in the frame. He just wasn't sure which side Pooran would release it. "Similarly, when Mayank saved that six from Kieron Pollard in the Super Over. It is a massive result off the last ball. If that ball had gone for six, momentum would have been with Mumbai Indians. The fact that he pulled that back in and almost got it to Arshdeep was incredible. Save a four off the last ball was huge. Completing that under pressure is good. We work on specifics with the infield fielders as well as those on the boundary," he smiled. While there have been some brilliant efforts, there have also been some sitters dropped. But Rhodes says it isn't easy fielding in a ground like the one in Dubai. "Don't forget the stadium in Dubai is totally closed in. When there is a wind, it has been a little less for the last few days. But in the first month, there was a strong wind blowing in the evening. When the stadium is open like in Sharjah or Abu Dhabi it doesn't impact much because you know which way the ball will swing. But when the stadium is closed as in Dubai, the wind swirls and that makes it very difficult. "Then, there is a rim of lights at the top of the stadium and that makes it difficult. The ball when it goes straight up, it is a lot easier when there is no wind. When the guys are fielding at the boundary, the ball sometimes goes through the line of the lights and it is quite difficult," he said. Coming back to KXIP, the team started well, but had been failing to close games. Rhodes says the idea was to keep calm and not panic looking at the points table. "The first half of the tournament we had discussed about disregarding the table position. When you play seven matches there is a long way to go. But after seven matches we sat down and while we were sitting at the bottom, considering the results and looking at the table, Mumbai and Delhi were at the top and RCB at the third position. We obviously had comfortably beaten RCB and a thriller against Delhi. "We said there is no need to panic. We had patches of good cricket and we were generally winning 36 overs of the game and it was just the last couple of overs which we couldn't complete successfully. T20s are going to be about the last over or last ball. We have enough experience in our team to know that is how T20 cricket is played. It wasn't about panicking and looked to be consistent with the personnel. We were looking to introduce Chris Gayle earlier, but he was sick for a week. We knew all it required was finishing the batting and bowling. Needed just one game to turn it around," he pointed. And Rhodes says the skipper played a huge role in ensuring that the boys felt comfortable despite the results not always going KXIP's way. "KL played a massive role. It is easy for a captain, especially someone who is performing so well, to say c'mmon everyone pull your socks up. But he has a calm presence and is not a fiery temperament. Even when he is batting, he doesn't work up a sweat even though he is hitting the ball over covers for a six. He is a calm personality and it is very important as a captain that you give yourself the space to be yourself. "Being calm doesn't mean you are not concerned or you taking things slowly. He is very hardworking and very competitive. But doesn't get upset or influenced by circumstances around him. For the first time Rahul got fired up was in the last game against Delhi Capitals after the first six overs when we didn't put up a good display and they were looking like scoring 180-190. He just said guys we need to pull up our socks. And the guys responded well to him because he has been calm and consistent through the wins and losses. Players feel he has got their back. His consistency through wins and losses allows him to ask for a bigger and better performance," the former South Africa player explained. Rahul has been in brilliant form and has amassed 540 runs from the 10 games with a century and five fifties. Rhodes feels that it is amazing how the KXIP skipper seems suited for all formats of the game. "It is incredible and is an indication of the strength of Indian cricket which is also detrimental also sometimes for some young cricketers. Think of Rohit Sharma, how long he took to break into the Indian team. Guys like Mayank have shown he is more than just a Test player. But KL has just been so consistent. He is multi-dimensional and that is important because as a cricketer you need to adapt to every scenario. The players who are able to adapt are the ones who are successful. "Someone like KL, wherever he has batted he has scored runs -- top or at number four. And the reason he fields so well is because as a wicket-keeper you move your feet. People talk about great hands, soft hands. But I feel you can have the best hands but if you can't get to the ball, you are never going to catch it. So, I focus on athletic ability, mobility and quick feet and that is why KL is good behind the stumps and in the outfield. He moves to get into position very well. "Some team have different players for Tests and then different for even 50-overs and T20s. A lot of the countries have very different Test teams as compared to their limited-overs teams and that is where KL has such a big advantage that he can adjust and has a sound technique. He plays spin and pace well and hits the really ball late and gives him an advantage in any of the formats and in any position," he said. Asked if keeping wickets has helped Rahul further, Rhodes said: "It certainly gives you an understanding of how the ball is coming off the surface and is an advantage. But for the first month (temperature wise), if you saw MS Dhoni, I have never seen him look stressed at the crease as he is such a fit and strong player. KL had to give the gloves to Pooran for a few games as he was really having to battle. We weren't winning many tosses, so we were fielding first and to field for 20 overs in that heat, and to then go straight out to bat was becoming tough for KL. "If you are batting at four or six or seven then it is a different picture. Being behind the stumps with the spin bowlers up close, it does give you an indication of how the ball is coming onto the bat. AB de Villiers bats two down or three down for RCB, so he has the time for a shower or sit and relax, but KL literally has 10 minutes to change, and then he is back on the field again. An advantage yes, but in the heat sometimes a disadvantage."

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Formula One: Haas to replace Magnussen and Grosjean next season

Motorsport|: Kannapolis: Formula One team Haas will replace drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean next year, the team said Thursday. The pair have struggled in their fourth season together and scored only three points between them in 11 races so far. Grosjean’s career at Haas started promisingly in 2016 when he finished sixth at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and then fifth in Bahrain. But the quick yet erratic French driver has made a string of mistakes in the past couple of seasons, as has Magnussen. Formula One: Towering Lewis Hamilton wins Eifel GP in Germany, equals Michael Schumacher’s all-time record Level best from record-setting Lewis Hamilton, Rafael Nadal and LeBron James on Super Sunday Where does Lewis Hamilton fit among Formula One's greatest drivers? Formula One: Bottas edges Hamilton to take pole at Eifel Grand Prix The Danish driver’s best season in F1 was in 2018 when he finished ninth in the drivers’ championship, securing two fifth-place finishes and placing in the top 10 in 11 of 21 races. Expectations were raised when Haas finished fifth in the constructors’ championship that season, with the Ferrari-engine car securing its best result when Grosjean was fourth and Magnussen fifth at the Austrian GP. “I want to extend my thanks to both Romain and Kevin for their hard work and commitment to Haas F1 Team over the past few seasons,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said. “Romain was a fundamental part of our establishment as we sought to get a driver onboard with both speed and experience.” Their departure leaves the door open for a veteran driver pairing of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg. Perez is leaving Racing Point at the end of the season to make way for four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, while Hulkenberg is one the market after losing his seat at Renault this year. Hulkenberg has driven well as an emergency replacement for Perez and Racing Point teammate Lance Stroll this season, placing eighth at the Eifel GP in Germany two weeks ago when Stroll was ill.

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IPL 2020 in UAE: Magical spell brings Mohammed Siraj back into limelight

IPL|: Abu Dhabi: Mohammed Siraj's international outings have been disappointing. So too have been those in the Indian Premier League. Leading up to the game against Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday, Siraj had leaked runs at over 10 an over in the three previous games this season. After a decent debut year in IPL 2017 with Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), he moved to Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in 2018 but the overall performance with the Bangalore-based franchise was anything but impressive. He leaked runs and didn't get too many wickets over the next two seasons. That problem spilled over to this year too. On Wednesday, things, however, changed when he took the new ball for the first time in an IPL game since 2017. The ball swung on a wicket that aided swing. Even though Siraj had been practising with the new ball in the nets, he didn't know he'd take the ball first up. "When I entered the ground, Virat bhai told me, Miyan ready ho jao (Gentleman, get ready)," Siraj said after the match. "And as I had been practising at the nets, I had the confidence. It really felt good that the ball moved away, and I began to get natural outswing." Skipper Virat Kohli said it was a late call to give Siraj the new ball. "Was thinking of giving Washy (Washington Sundar). We had the option of the plan to start with Washy and bring (Chris) Morris in the second over then we thought let's give Siraj the new ball with Morris. Let him set the tone and then let Siraj try and swing the ball," said Kohli describing what prompted him to give Siraj the new ball. Siraj said that he was a bowler with natural in-swing but during practice he found that he was getting the ball to move away and he went ahead with it. While right-handers Rahul Tripathi and Tom Banton too were victims of balls that moved away or straightened, the best sight for him and RCB was reserved for Nitish Rana. The left-hander has a weakness against short ball and was probably expecting that with the field set for it. But Siraj slipped in one he has been practicing, which would move into a left-handed batsman. Rana was bowled. It also helped that the RCB team has two good left-handed batsmen in Parthiv Patel and Devdutt Padikkal at whom Siraj had been bowling those deliveries. Siraj has had a chequered career all through. Before this, he had impressed only for India A and Hyderabad Ranji team. In the only ODI he played, in 2019 in Adelaide, he conceded runs at 7.6 without picking a wicket. In the three T20Is he has played, he leaked runs at over 12 and hasn't got too many wickets. But things may change. Ahead of this tournament, Siraj had told media that he is looking at IPL as a platform to come back into the Indian team where competition for pace bowling spot is strong. On Wednesday too, he reiterated this. "When this IPL began, I thought I will do something magical. And I am glad I did."

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Bishnoi, M. Ashwin: The unlikely, unsung heroes for Kings XI Punjab

IPL|: New Delhi: After suffering five consecutive defeats, things were going haywire for Kings XI Punjab in the ongoing IPL. However, it now seems that the franchise has been able to find their mojo back, and have registered three successive wins, including impressive verdicts against table toppers Delhi Capitals, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians. While Punjab entered the tournament as a side with a heavy batting line-up, having the likes of KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Glenn Maxwell, Nicholas Pooran to name a few, they have found unlikely heroes in their two leg-spinners -- Ravi Bishnoi and Murugan Ashwin. Bishnoi has scalped nine wickets in 10 innings he has bowled in so far and Ashwin has picked up seven wickets in five innings. While the number of wickets might suggest that their contributions towards the team hasn't been that significant, it is their skills and the ability to pick wickets at crucial junctures of a game which has earned them praise from many in the cricket fraternity and have let Rahul to play them together in the recent matches. Ravi Bishnoi Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI For Bishnoi, the leg-break bowler who ended as the highest wicket-taker in the U-19 World Cup earlier this year with 17 wickets, his IPL debut season has been like a dream. The 20-year-old has so far bowled 220 deliveries and given away 277 runs, which makes it an economy of 7.91 which is not at all bad considering how T20 cricket is heavily titled towards batsmen. Kings XI spent Rs 2 crore for Bishnoi and considering his performance so far, the team management must be quite happy with their decision. His victims include the likes of David Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Rishabh Pant, Aaron Finch, Eoin Morgan - batsmen who are considered to be well equipped to tackle spin bowling with ease. "I was a bit nervous in the beginning, but it was more excitement than nervousness for me to make my debut. I just wanted to do well and help my team win," Bishnoi had said after his IPL debut against Delhi Capitals in which he returned with figures of 1/22. Having a bowling style similar to that of head coach and ace leg-spinner Anil Kumble, Bishnoi has been able to keep the batsmen in check, using flippers, top-spinners and googlies to good effect. Having said that, he has not made excessive use of his special deliveries, thus becoming too predictable and, in the process, has kept the batsmen guessing. Ashwin, on the other hand, is more experienced in terms of number of matches compared to Bishnoi. While his IPL experience goes to 27 games across four editions, his best performance seems to be coming under the watchful eyes of Kumble. The 30-year-old has so far bowled 93 deliveries in which he has conceded 121 runs. He has been used by Rahul in the powerplays and even then, his economy lies at 7.80. Most impressive thing about the leg-spinner has been his strike rate of 13.28, which means he has been picking wickets after every two overs. Bishnoi's strike rate, on the other hand, is a little over 23, meaning he has been picking up a wicket after almost every four overs. Unlike Bishnoi, Ashwin has not only been learning from Kumble, he has also been taking cues from the spinners from other teams as well, something that he revealed after the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore. He said he watched closely how Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar bowled. "The wicket was holding up a bit. It was about executing length. It did have something for spinners. I was watching the ball previous game which RCB played. How their spinners bowled. I took a cue from that," Ashwin had said after RCB's game. While the likes of Rahul, Mayank, and Mohammad Shami still hold the key for Kings XI Punjab, if they have to make it to the playoffs, the performance of Ashwin and Bishnoi is just as crucial considering they have been able to keep the opposition teams in check and chipping in with wickets at crucial junctures of the game. That is something that Kumble would desperately hope the duo continues to do in the remaining games.

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IPL 2020 in UAE: Loss against RCB was morale-crushing, but destiny still in our hands, says Brendon McCullum

IPL|: Abu Dhabi: Disappointed with his team's "timid approach" with the bat, Kolkata Knight Riders head coach Brendon McCullum has admitted that the crushing defeat against Royal Challengers Bangalore would definitely affect the morale of the side, but their destiny is still in their hands. He believes KKR can go all the way to the final, despite just hanging on to the fourth spot in the eight-team competition with 10 points from as many games. "This (loss) is going to affect a little bit in terms of our confidence. We need to work hard on ensuring our morale doesn't drop at the same time having those honest conversations around how we improve," McCullum said after the eight-wicket loss to RCB in an IPL game here on Wednesday night. "But I still firmly believe that we have a side which can be there later on in the tournament, come finals. We just need to improve slightly. "We're still fourth in the tournament, which is very fortunate for us. Destiny is still very much in our hands. We have just got to tighten up some of those areas where we're deficient tonight and make sure we improve on our performance," he said. McCullum admitted that they were not good enough and lacked intent in the lop-sided contest against RCB. Electing to bat, KKR top-order crumbled against Mohammed Siraj's (3/8) devastating new-ball show to register their second lowest total -- 84 for 8, a target which RCB chased down in in 13.3 overs with eight wickets in hand. McCullum said there was no demon in the pitch but their batsmen lacked intent against some quality RCB bowling. ".I didn't think there was a lot in the wicket. Siraj obviously bowled well and (Chris) Morris at times also. But if anything, we were just a little timid in our approach," the former New Zealand captain said. "That's just a bit frustrating because we spoke at length before the game about trying to be positive and show some strong intent, so that's something we'll have to address in the next few days." Siraj became the first bowler in the history of IPL to bowl two maiden overs as he dismissed Rahul Tripathi (1), Nitish Rana (0) and Tom Banton (10) to virtually kill the contest in the first four overs. "I just think we weren't able to enter the game at any stage, none of our top-order batsmen were able to get anything going," McCullum said. "Defending 85, you might just win one in 50 games. I think RCB were very good tonight. We're very poor with bat in hand. You're not going to win too many games from 40 for 6. But we've got to bounce back because we've got another game in a few days. "With the conditions being slightly challenging at times, you've got to find a way to still pick yourself up and try and get a result in the next game," he added. McCullum said self belief is the need of the hour after such a disappointing performance. "For us, it's about maintaining belief. As long as our morale stays high, and our belief within the dressing room stays high, then we have the talent within our setup, the intelligence and quality of players, to be able to go deep in the tournament." KKR have four matches left to secure a play-off spot and next face Delhi Capitals here on Saturday.

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F1 champ Nico Rosberg is latest Extreme E entrant

Motorsport|: Dubai: 2016 Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg is the latest high-profile name confirmed for Extreme E — the new electric off-road racing series — through the formation of his own team, Rosberg Xtreme Racing (RXR). Making its debut in 2021, the FIA-sanctioned Extreme E series has already attracted the likes of reigning six-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton through the launch of his X44 team. The series will use electric SUVs to race in remote parts of the world with a scheduled start in Senegal before moving on to Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Greenland and Brazil. Rosberg praises F1 cars as monstrous, but looks can be deceiving Rosberg relives championship winning night of 2016 Watch former Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg thrash a Ferrari Monza SP1 around Fiorano Formula One to launch live Twitter show All racing locations have been chosen to raise awareness for some aspects of climate change and Extreme E will maintain a ‘Legacy Programme’ which will provide social and environmental support for those locations. Also a sustainability entrepreneur, Rosberg’s RXR team is an evolution of Team Rosberg, founded in 1994 by his father and 1982 F1 champion, Keke. RXR has built on the team’s success in the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) as well as Nico’s post-F1 career as an entrepreneur in the field of sustainable mobility. “We are thrilled to unveil Rosberg Xtreme Racing as the latest addition to Extreme E. The series represents an amazing opportunity to not only drive awareness but also inspire action in the fight against climate change — the single biggest threat to our planet today. Since retiring from F1 I have dedicated my career to sustainable technologies so to be able to combine these endeavours with my passion for racing is incredibly fulfilling,” Rosberg said as RXR became the ninth team to join the series. Since retiring from F1, Rosberg has invested in numerous successful sustainability start-ups and is also an early investor and shareholder of the all-electric racing series Formula E. With his entrepreneurial commitment, Rosberg supports businesses that offer disruptive solutions in the transition to a sustainable society. In 2019, Rosberg founded the GreenTech Festival, a global platform to showcase pioneering green technologies. One of the first projects that RXR will support in its opening season is an initiative by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which works with rural communities in Senegal to monitor available water resources and the status of vegetation. Alejandro Agag, Extreme E founder and CEO, said: “We are ecstatic to finally announce that Rosberg Xtreme Racing will be joining our line-up for the first season of Extreme E. We have been talking about this project for many months and we are thrilled he has chosen Extreme E for his formal return to motorsport as founder and CEO of his own racing team. There is clearly a great synergy between Nico’s endeavours in the sustainability field and the aims of Extreme E so his team is a hugely welcomed addition to the series.” Participating teams will race an electric SUV named Odyssey 21, which can go from 0-100 kph in 4.5 seconds, at gradients of up to 130 per cent. It is manufactured by Spark Racing Technology, with a battery produced by Williams Advanced Engineering, a niobium-reinforced steel alloy tubular frame, and purpose built tyres, designed by Continental Tyres, which are the most extreme the company has ever produced. Coinciding with the team’s entry in Extreme E, leading eco-luxury catamaran manufacturer Sunreef Yachts and the company’s president Francis Lapp have extended their partnership with Nico Rosberg and are now also an official team partner of Rosberg Xtreme Racing.