Dravid to shape next generation of Indian cricketers

The Indian cricket board (BCCI) last week named a three-member advisory committee comprised of former cricketers Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman but the absence of former captain and batting great Dravid had surprised many.

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BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur laid the concerns to rest by confirming that the modalities of Dravid’s contract will be finalised in the next few days.

“The good news is that Rahul Dravid has agreed to coach India A and India under-19 in the future,” Thakur told reporters in Kolkata after a meeting with the advisory committee on Saturday.

The 42-year-old Dravid, who has over 13,000 runs in tests and close to 11,000 in the 50-over format, will start by preparing the India A side for a home series against Australia A and South Africa A in July and August.

Dravid said the role suited his family life fine and he did not see it as a platform to groom himself for the national team’s head coaching job which remains vacant after the departure of Duncan Fletcher in March.

“I think it is really exciting because it has been an area I have always been interested in,” Dravid told ESPNcricinfo of his new role.

“I feel it is a very important stage of development of a lot of cricketers, having been through myself, and I am just hoping that … I will probably be able to help some of these young cricketers on their journey.

“I don’t see this as any stepping stone, I just see this as an opportunity to work with young players over the next few months, six weeks of an A tour and may be six or seven weeks, with the under-19 team.”

With India widely known as poor travellers, Dravid’s role will be crucial.

The new advisory panel has recommended increasing the overseas trips of junior teams and organising tours a year earlier in countries where the senior team would be scheduled to play a major tournament or series.

“One of the suggestions by the legends was to increase the number of India A tours overseas so that we can give more and more exposure to our A players and they can play competitive cricket,” Thakur said.

“In the past few years, the performance of the Indian team was not up to the mark overseas, so our focus would be on India A tour overseas.

“For example, if we have to play Champions Trophy in England, then India A must tour England or nearby countries one year in advance.”

The panel has also suggested identifying a pool of 30 bowlers, comprising of 15 pacemen and the same number of spinners, to be groomed for international cricket over a four-year cycle.

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Ian Ransom)

UK’s Cameron to vent dismay over EU-U.S. trade deal delay at G7

Cameron, in bullish mood after winning re-election with a surprise majority last month, is expected to raise the issue in one-to-one talks with U.

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S. President Barack Obama on Sunday at the G7 and to join host Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, in pushing EU officials to speed negotiations.

His intervention would come after the EU’s chief negotiator said in April that talks to clinch the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would stretch into 2016.

“We launched this at a G8 that was ours in Lough Erne in 2013,” one British official told reporters. “That was over 700 days ago, and the prime minister feels we should be making swifter progress.”

Cameron wanted a political deal by the year-end, the official said, warning the global cost of not getting one was about 630 million pounds ($962.01 million) daily. 

Proponents say such a settlement could add $100 billion in annual economic output on both sides of the Atlantic. The TTIP has faced opposition from protesters in Germany, however, and has also stumbled on U.S. demands for an investor protection clause. 

Cameron, who has said he wants the G7 to use the scandal engulfing FIFA to focus on cracking down on corruption, will also warn the world must be much better prepared for a disease epidemic.

“The reality is that we will face an outbreak like Ebola again and that virus could be more aggressive and more difficult to contain,” Cameron said on the eve of the summit. “It is time to wake-up to that threat.” 

He is expected to say Britain is ready to “lead the way” and work with the World Health Organisation to try to harness better global research, more drug development, and a faster and more comprehensive approach to fighting disease outbreaks. 

He will announce a British programme to focus on the most threatening diseases, a requirement for UK-funded vaccine research to be shared globally, and the creation of a rapid reaction unit of specialists backed by a reserve force of doctors who can be dispatched to global disease hot spots. 

(Additional Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

 

WADA cast a black cloud over Bombers: Hird

James Hird believes WADA’s appeal has cast a cloud over his players after the Bombers slumped to a listless defeat at the hands of Geelong.

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Hird was “astonished” at how well his side performed early in the season after the AFL anti-doping tribunal’s March verdict clearing 34 past and present players of any wrongdoing over their involvement in the club’s controversial 2012 supplements program.

But Essendon have lost three out of four games since the World Anti-Doping Agency announced its decision to appeal that finding, which Hird feels is a factor in the Bombers’ deteriorating form.

“After beating Hawthorn (in round two) I thought this group had come through probably one of the worst times for any group and performed exceptionally well,” Hird told Triple M on Sunday.

“But where we sit at the moment, after the WADA decision after the Fremantle game, the players have been through such a journey that I feel perhaps … to a certain extent that cloud has come back over them and is causing a bit of a fog around their brains and their decision-making in a game.

“They don’t specifically run out there thinking about WADA but when you go through a journey like these guys have for two or three years and then you know that this journey has got maybe another year to go it makes it harder rather than easier to play AFL football.”

The Bombers sit in 12th place on the ladder after 10 rounds, with their season precariously balanced at four wins and six losses.

Hird described his side’s second quarter in the 69-point loss to the Cats as the worst of the season and the first time his players had let themselves down in terms of effort this year.

He feels the players have taken a few steps backwards in terms of their mental state, but that winning games of football was the only way forward while the appeal process plays out.

“It’s no excuse for what’s going on and Essendon supporters don’t really want to hear about ASADA or WADA any more. I know the players don’t,” he said.

“To me, and this is what we spoke about after the game, the only way out of what we’re in is winning games of football.

“The players want to be remembered as a playing group that played competitive football, that wins games of football … we can talk about ASADA and WADA all we want but it’s not going to help us play football.

“All these players want to do is perform on the field. It’s not a sense of loyalty – they don’t owe me anything and I don’t owe them anything – but what they owe themselves is to play and train to the best of their ability.”

In Laos, women’s rugby flourishes on unsuitable ground

In the impoverished country, where many live without electricity and unexploded ordnance litter rural areas, rugby is a sport that is only just starting to take root.

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So if the small grass area next door to the United States Ambassadors residence in the Lao capital is unavailable, the switch moves and passing drills take place in a nearby car park with plastic cones to try and deter the motorbikes.

Understandably, finding a field of their own is the priority for Lao Rugby Federation (LRF) partnerships and development advisor Megan Knight, who previously worked with USA Rugby.

“Pitches are the most important thing as the kids in most of the places where we are playing, play on dirt school grounds, they can’t tackle, that’s the thing that prevents them from improving,” the American told Reuters.

“Because of the bombs, the mountains, the gravel there is just a lot of reasons why it is tough to find a space to play.”

The Colorado native, who speaks fluent Lao and regularly plays for the women’s international team, moved to Laos after using the internet to find rugby development opportunities in Asia.

During her time, Laos has seen a growing female interest in the game after the LRF partnered with two non-government organisations, ChildFund and Women Win, on the Sport for Development project.

In a country where many women marry in their mid-teens and often leave school early to help farm family lands, Knight said the rugby project was developing life skills, improving confidence and fostering role models.

One of those is 23-year-old Lao Khang, who had never heard of rugby three years ago before the LRF came to her small village in Nonghet district. She is now one of 2,000 that play the sport, also coaching and administrating at the body.

“She is such a celebrity when she goes back, everyone knows who she is, they see her on TV,” said Knight.

“Most people in Nonghet don’t get a chance to leave the country, let alone the district, so to see someone who hasn’t even finished school go on and do all this stuff it really inspires kids to be involved … there is huge benefit.”

By offering paid work, sceptical families were more willing to allow daughters to pursue the alien sport.

“Their parents wont let them just join rugby clubs as they have all this other work to do,” she said.

BIG HEARTS

Knight said poor internet and limited international rugby access meant none of the Laos women’s team would recognise All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams.

But while playing numbers are growing, standards remain low. The women were beaten 17-0 by Malaysia and Philippines on Saturday before hosts Singapore walloped them 54-0.

Physicality is an obvious issue. Khang is one of the taller players in the squad at 1.60 metres (5-ft-3in), with three of the 12 below five feet.

“They like to always say they are small people with big hearts,” Knight said.

While playing at the Olympics “would be great”, social development goals are the priority. The sport’s global governing body, World Rugby, has taken note.

“They are saying if a small country like Laos can get so many girls participating we need to learn from the model,” Knight said.

LRF receive only limited funding from World Rugby but were given a grant to aid their work in a country which has never won an Olympic medal and where children normally play either football or sepak takraw, the volleyball-like game popular in South East Asia.

The SEA Games experience, a rare foreign trip, concludes for the team on Sunday before they fly back on Monday. It will have cost the LRF $20,000, around a fifth of the annual budget, with no help from the Laos National Olympic Committee.

The team’s eye-catching, flowery kits were donated by Hong Kong sponsors.

Knight said the job, which only became paid in September after four years, was rewarding but challenging.

“Sometimes it’s really stressful, what Hong Kong do with 80 people we try to do with six. It takes us 14 hours driving to get to some of the places we are working. It’s really hard but really fun.”

(Editing by Ian Ransom)

Turks vote in election set to shape Erdogan’s legacy

Ruling AK Party expected to be largest party by farPro-Kurdish party success could result in coalitionErdogan hopes for strong AKP showing to boost his powers

ISTANBUL, June 7 (Reuters) – Turks go to the polls on Sunday in the closest parliamentary election in more than a decade, one that could pave the way for President Tayyip Erdogan to amass greater power or end 12 years of single-party rule for the AK Party he founded.

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A deadly bombing in the mainly Kurdish southeast on Friday has magnified attention on the pro-Kurdish opposition, which is trying to enter parliament as a party for the first time. 

Efforts to end a three-decade Kurdish insurgency as well as Erdogan’s political ambitions could hinge on that party’s fate. 

Turkey’s most popular yet most divisive politician, Erdogan seeks a large majority for the ruling AK Party to boost his powers. He says a U.S.-style executive presidency is necessary to bolster the regional influence and economic advances of NATO-member Turkey. 

“They say ‘If Erdogan gets what he wants on Sunday he will be unstoppable’,” he told a rally in the northeastern province of Ardahan on Saturday. 

“They actually mean Turkey will be unstoppable.” 

In power since 2002, the AKP is expected to again be the largest party by far. But achieving a majority may depend on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) falling below the 10 percent hurdle required to enter parliament. Opinion polls put it around that level.

While constitutionally required to stay above party politics, Erdogan has held frequent rallies during what has been a confrontational election campaign, joining Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in attacking opposition parties.

The two have portrayed the election as a choice between a “new Turkey” or a return to a history marked by short-lived coalition governments, economic instability and military coups. 

“Either the stability of the last 12 years will continue, or there will be the crisis scenario of those who want to take Turkey back to the chaos and crisis atmosphere of the 1990s,” Davutoglu told a rally in the southern city of Antalya. 

Ratcheting up tension ahead of the vote, HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas called for Erdogan to apologise for his muted response to Friday’s bombing of an HDP rally in Diyarbakir, which killed two and wounded more than 200.

Security was tightened after the attack and some 9,000 police and gendarmerie officers were assigned for duty in Diyarbakir on Sunday. Nationwide, polling stations will open at 0500 GMT and close at 1400 GMT with an embargo for publishing results currently fixed at 1800 GMT.

Erdogan late on Friday expressed his condolences for victims of the attack, calling it a “provocation”. 

While he says he is equally distant from all parties, HDP leaders have accused Erdogan of whipping up sentiment against them and party deputy Idris Baluken said he and the AKP bore responsibility for Friday’s attack.

“The source of the violence is the AKP, the president. For two months, we have been warning that the rhetoric would result in just this, including in our talks with the government,” Baluken told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Diyarbakir; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Dominic Evans)

 

Reds end nears for Horwill, Genia

If his words somehow didn’t do it justice, Queensland Reds halfback Will Genia illustrated just how much Suncorp Stadium means to him with a simple gesture after his final home game for the club.

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The Reds were dealt a 24-3 defeat by the Chiefs to add a tinge of frustration to the cocktail of emotions that bubbled in Brisbane as Genia and former captain James Horwill said goodbye to an adoring crowd of more than 25,000 fans.

But it took no gloss off the occasion for Genia, who knelt down amidst a gushing on-field farewell presentation after the match and kissed the turf.

“A bit over the top, but I love this place,” he said.

“I’ve never taken for granted the opportunity to play here at Suncorp, it’s an incredible stadium.

“It’s the old cliche – I never thought I’d play for Queensland. Ever.

“Never thought I’d play one game, let alone 100 games.

“I’ve appreciated it a hell of a lot.”

Genia and Horwill, who will both play in Europe next season, have one more chance to taste victory in their Reds careers when they face the NSW Waratahs in Sydney next weekend to close a dismal Super Rugby season.

Queensland had their chances to notch a win against the Chiefs on the back of their overwhelming set-piece dominance, but fluffed their lines in attack and were made to pay by the three-try visitors, who were comparatively surgical in their precision going forward.

“We threw a lot of shots at them – I don’t think anyone’s going to say that we didn’t go down swinging,” Horwill said.

“We just came up short, we gave them some unstructured ball that they cherished and they capitalised on a couple of opportunities that they got.”

Coach Richard Graham admits it will be impossible to replace the 200-plus games of experience Horwill and Genia will take with them when they leave.

“It leaves an enormous dent,” he said.

“The passion, dedication and commitment that both of them (show) in terms of their training and playing, it’s certainly going to be missed.

“This week is an emotional week because it’s both their last game here but as we said in the changerooms, there’s still one more game to go.

“I reckon the performance that we’ll see from both these guys next week will be a true indication of how much they care about the place.”

Qld children’s hospital denies turning away ill kids

The governing body for the new children’s hospital in Brisbane has denied a report that sick children are being turned away because of a lack of beds.

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The Sunday Mail reports that seriously ill children are being diverted from the Lady Cilento hospital and surgery cancelled amid a shortage of beds and staff.

However the chief executive of Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, Fionnagh Dougan, says while elective surgery is occasionally rescheduled, no seriously ill children have been turned away.

“The Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital (LCCH) is not full and has capacity to admit any child requiring tertiary-level in-patient care,” Ms Dougan said in a statement on Sunday.

“The LCCH has never turned away a seriously ill or injured child requiring emergency care.

“There is no instance of or plans to transfer a child interstate for emergency surgery.”

The Sunday Mail article refers to a hospital director’s email to staff that reportedly says the facility is at “absolute capacity” and foreshadows the cancellation of major surgery.

Ms Dougan said there had been more patients than usual in recent weeks and the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit could increase its average capacity as required.

It is standard practice to transfer children to other hospitals to ensure intensive care beds remain available at Lady Cilento, she said.

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle said she is aware the hospital is 30 to 40 theatre nurses short of what is required and existing staff are working excessive overtime.

“I’m not aware of any particular examples of children being turned away, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that is occurring if they haven’t got sufficient staffing to safely care for children,” Ms Mohle said.

Staffing shortages has been a problem since the transition to Lady Cilento from Brisbane’s previous children’s hospitals, the Royal and the Mater, she said.

Lehmann wants more from Aussie batsmen

For all the excitement about Australia’s emphatic three-day Test win over the West Indies in Dominica, the performance of the top order has come into question.

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Australia came away with a nine-wicket victory in Dominica, but not before slumping to 6-126 in their first innings.

Worryingly, it’s the 20th time in 46 innings that Australia have lost five or more wickets for less than 150 runs.

Coach Darren Lehmann admits it’s a statistic that leaves him worried.

“That was a disappointing output … we need our top six making runs,” Lehmann said.

“We know that, to perform how we want to perform in each Test match.

“The tail got us out of jail here and they’ve done that a bit in the past. The batters will be working hard to get it right.”

Australia’s saving grace has been their tail-enders as it was in Dominica.

Adam Voges, who scored an unbeaten 130 on debut, combined with the last four batsmen to lift Australia’s first innings to 318.

In the past year, Australia have added 100 or more runs after being seven down four times.

Fast bowlers Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood as well as Nathan Lyon have all proven their worth with the bat as well as the ball.

With several members of the batting lineup having their first red-ball bat in the first Test for months, Lehmann is hopeful Australia will be better for the experience in the second Test in Jamaica starting on Thursday.

“We were a little bit rusty the first hour with the ball on the first day because blokes hadn’t played in a bit,” Lehmann said.

“The same with the bat in the first innings.

“Hopefully all the cricket we’ve played, with the tour game and the training, hopefully in Jamaica we’ll start to settle into that five-day Test mode.

“It’s not a concern. It’s just about the batters adapting better.”

WAGGING TAIL – Australia’s tail-end batting efforts in past year

3-140 v West Indies, Dominica 2015

3-154 v India, MCG 2014

2-84 v India, MCG 2014

3-110 v India, Gabba, 2014

3-68 v Pakistan, Abu Dhabi 2014

3-8 v Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, 2014

3-41 v Pakistan, Dubai 2014

3-105 v Pakistan, Dubai 2014

‘Drained’ Mo Farah withdraws from UK meet

A “drained” Mo Farah has withdrawn from the Diamond League athletics meet in Birmingham a day after insisting he will not leave coach Alberto Salazar despite a BBC documentary alleging the latter had encouraged his athletes to use illegal substances.

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The 32-year-old Briton, the double Olympic, world and European champion over both 5000 and 10,000 metres, said he was “emotionally and physically drained”.

“This week has been very stressful and taken a lot out of me,” he said in a statement.

“I have not been able to focus properly on today’s race and after the events of the last few days I feel emotionally and physically drained.

“I want to run well in the World Championships in Beijing and have decided it is better for me to go back to the US, seek answers to my questions and get back into training.

“I apologise to the people who bought tickets to come and watch me race and ask for your understanding at this time.”

Farah had said at a press conference on Saturday he was “angry” his name had “been dragged through the mud” and he had seen no evidence linking Salazar to doping.

“I’m not leaving Alberto, for the reason I’ve not seen any clear evidence,” said Farah.

There is no suggestion Farah has done anything wrong and Salazar strongly denies all claims made by the BBC documentary, namely that he had encouraged athletes including the United States’ Olympic 10,000 metres silver medallist Galen Rupp, a training partner of Farah, to use illegal substances.

“I’m a clean athlete. I’m against drugs 100 per cent and believe anyone caught should be banned for life,” Farah said on Saturday.

Guam find their voice ahead of first home World Cup qualifier

To mark Thursday’s historic fixture at the National Training Center in Hagatna, Guam’s goalkeeping coach Adrian Creamer tapped his musical friends to provide a football anthem.

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Creamer’s contact was Ronan McManus, the younger brother of British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, who wrote and released “Biba Guahan” with his band Brand New Zeros which the Guam Football Association have posted for free online.

“It’s sort of a Hollywood story, really,” McManus was quoted as saying by Sunday’s Pacific Daily News. “A small nation really making great strides. You can feel the excitement.”

Some members of the British-based band needed some convincing at first, McManus said.

“There was a little bit of an explanation as to where Guam is, but once they heard the story they all loved it. They were happy to be involved. They were delighted.”

And hopes are high of a happy ending to Thursday’s script for the team known as the ‘Matao’, a traditional term for the indigenous Chamorro population that refers to courage.

Since the arrival of Englishman Garry White in 2012 as head coach and technical director the double digit devastations have ceased for the side which became FIFA members in 1996.

In 2013, they recorded a first win over Taiwan and last year achieved their best ever FIFA ranking of 160th, a sizeable feat for a squad headlined by Los Angeles Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza but featuring many players with limited U.S. college experience.

For Jason Cunliffe, the side’s 31-year-old skipper and forward who juggles his national team duties with working in a bank, the opportunity was one to grab with both hands.

“We go out to win,” he told FIFA. “We are looking to take scalps. We are not going to sit back and park the bus. We are going to come at you, and you will have to beat us.”

White, who was released by English Premier League side Southampton as a youth player, couldn’t wait for the opening match of the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying campaign.

“The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the planet. It’s bigger than the Olympics,” White, who held similar roles with other tropical minnows British Virgin Islands and Bahamas, told the Pacific Daily News.

“This type of event could inspire our next generation of players. It could be the turning point for some of them.”

Thursday’s match is followed by another home qualifier on June 16 against India, the world’s second most populous nation.

A trip to Iran follows in September at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, which could almost house the entire population of Guam having routinely hosted 100,000 fans for matches. Oman are also Group D opponents.

Cunliffe said the home fixtures were a chance to put Guam, which takes four hours in a flight from Manila, on the map.

“We can show them that maybe we only have a population of about 180,000, but when we come to play, we can bring it, too,” he told local media.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)