Six-man Rohit credits Shami for super win

Six-man Rohit credits Shami for super win

Rohit Sharma called India’s winning streak in the shortest form of the game a good run as they head towards the T20 World Cup later in the year.

The vice-captain put up a stellar performance in the third T20I versus New Zealand in Hamilton on Wednesday, which includes two match-winning sixes off Tim Southee in the Super Over, as India won the game and wrapped up the series with an unassailable 3-0 lead.

Rohit, who scored 65 off 40 balls and then an unbeaten 15 off four deliveries in the Super Over, has also forged two great opening partnerships for India with KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan. According to him, the team management will decide who opens alongside him in the T20 World Cup.

“Whenever these guys got an opportunity, they have made it count. Shikhar as well, when he played the last series (against Sri Lanka), he got a crucial 50 and then KL has been in good form over the last seven-eight T20Is. He has got quite a few half-centuries.

“So all these are good signs for the team. That’s how we look at it.

“It’s important for most of our players to stay in good form, and then what happens with the final XI and everything else will be decided once all the players are available. The captain and the rest of the management will sit together and identify who are the right guys to play that particular game. That’s how I look at it,” Rohit said at the post-match media conference.

“For me, I want everyone to stay in good form, which has happened through the series. It is a great sign for us moving forward in this particular format at least.

“I wish we don’t relax in the next two games and just keep the momentum going,” Rohit added.

India might not have won the game without Rohit’s Super Over sixes. But Rohit preferred to be modest, crediting Mohammed Shami who picked up both Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor in the final over to force a Super Over finish.

Both India and New Zealand were tied at 179 each before the Super Over.

“I think Shami’s last over was crucial, and actually that got us the victory. Not my two sixes. It was Shami’s (final) over where we defended nine runs. It’s not easy to do with such dew,” Rohit pointed out.

Captain Virat Kohli too was all praise for Shami, who bowled the last over on a day Jasprit Bumrah leaked 45 off his four overs.

“…Shami again showed his experience and bowled a couple of balls outside off stump, and then before the last ball, we had a discussion. We decided that we had to try and hit the stumps, otherwise it was a single anyway and we would then lose the game.

“So Shami went for it, got the wicket and the game turned on its head,” Kohli said.

Indian bowler Mohammed Shami
Indian bowler Mohammed Shami(AP)

Super Over heroics

Rohit revealed he took five minutes to find his abdomen guard before going back to the field for the Super Over. He said the team had almost given up when New Zealand needed only a couple off four balls with Williamson and Taylor at the crease.

“Everything was packed. I had all my stuff inside my bag and I had to get them out. It literally took me five minutes to find my abdomen guard because I didn’t know where it was,” Rohit said.

“I mean we never thought it would go to the Super Over, given the way they were batting. At one point, it looked like they would easily win the game.”

Rohit feels there is no training possible for Super Over eventualities.

“From what I’ve seen in Super Overs, whatever you are chasing, it’s the bowler who is under pressure. That’s my understanding,” he said.

Kohli, though, had full faith in his deputy taking the team home. “In the Super Over as well, New Zealand again put pressure on us. But Rohit was outstanding, both in the first half and also in the last two balls.

“We knew if he got one hit, the bowler would be under pressure because he’s such a good striker of the ball and that’s exactly what happened. His experience came in.

“Overall, a top day for us and a beautiful game to be part of,” Kohli emphasised.

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In chase, Iyer plays end game

In chase, Iyer plays end game

Shreyas Iyer, with a strike rate of 200 but a cool head, helped India to a smart victory in the first T20I of the five-match series against New Zealand at Eden park in Auckland on Friday.

Iyer, who many believe to be the middle-order solution that India have been searching for quite some time, played an unbeaten innings of 58 off 29 balls as India chased down a target of 204 in 19 overs.

The other contributors in the Indian innings were KL Rahul (56 off 27 balls) and captain Virat Kohli (45 off 32 balls).

Iyer, batting at No.4, enjoyed his time at Eden Park.

“It’s amazing coming overseas and it’s a really good feeling to win the game and being not out. We had lost two quick wickets and it was really important to build a partnership. We knew the ground is short and we could cover the run rate at any time. It was an amazing experience… This is my first time at Eden Park, looking forward to the same crowd and the same support again for the next game,” said Man of the Match Iyer.

Rahul, the other half-centurion in the Indian innings, was all praise for Iyer.

“It was a fantastic finish. We have seen for a while that in crunch situations, we have lacked someone who can to take the team through and win. But the way Shreyas, Shivam (Dube) and even Manish (Pandey) started striking the ball from the moment they went in was excellent. When you’re chasing over 200, you need a boundary in every over.

“It was good to see that whoever was walking out was doing so with the intent to do that. And the execution was very impressive today. That is very heartening to see. The way Shreyas finished it off, the way he celebrated very calmly after reaching his half-century… he finished the game and then celebrated.

“With the responsibility of being an IPL (Delhi Capitals) captain, Shreyas has understood how to finish the games. He showed that responsibility in the last ODI too and here too. Those are great signs for us,” said Rahul.

Rahul, too, is “loving” his new role in the Indian team. The opener is doubling up a wicketkeeper for the Kohli brigade.

“I’m quite honestly loving it. At the international stage, it might seem very new and it might seem like I’ve never kept. (But) I’ve kept for my IPL franchise for the last 3-4 years, and I’ve kept for my first-class team as and when there is an opening. I’ve still stayed in touch with wicketkeeping.

“I enjoy staying behind the stumps and it also gives me a great idea about how the pitch is playing, and I can pass on that message to the bowlers and the captains regarding field-settings and everything. As a ’keeper, that’s also your responsibility to stay active and pass the message on to your captain as to what lengths are better and what I feel we can do better.”

Rahul is of the opinion that keeping wickets helps his batting as well.

“As a batsman as well, after keeping for 20 overs, you get a fair idea on what are the good shots on a particular kind of wicket. So I’m enjoying the responsibility and so far so good for me.”

The Karnataka batsman claimed that he has returned wiser after he was dropped from the team last year.

“That’s exactly what I’ve learnt in the last one-and-a-half years, that this is my game, where I play cricketing shots. I’ve been blessed with shots all over the ground but getting into good positions and striking the ball with a good technique is my strength.

“If I can carry forward that belief and mind-set into each innings it’ll help me more and I can be more successful and in return I can be more consistent for the team’s sake,” he added.

While he was out of the India team, domestic cricket helped Rahul sort out issues.

“I’ve been part of the team for a long time and on a lot of tours, I just go and sit outside. I don’t get game time. You need to be in the middle and get runs and that’s the only way that I could have got my confidence to go back, play some first-class cricket, less pressure and I could focus on myself, my skill and my cricket.”

Jet lag no issue

He had mentioned about the need for better scheduling of matches on Thursday, and on Friday captain Kohli explained how they didn’t let jet lag affect their performance.

“We enjoyed this. Landing two days before and playing a game like this, it was fantastic… This sets up for the whole tour for us. It felt like 80 per cent support was for us and the crowd was right behind us. You need that sort of push chasing 200 plus. We never spoke of the jet lag in the team. We didn’t want any excuse. We had a really good series against Australia and we took that confidence in here,” Kohli said at the post-match presentation ceremony.

Though they won the match, the Indian bowlers were thrashed all around Eden Park by the New Zealand batsmen. Kohli, however, sounded sympathetic to them.

“You can’t be harsh on anyone on this kind of pitch. I think we did well in the middle overs, to restrict them under 210 was a good effort.”

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Kohli’s dig at scheduling

Kohli’s dig at scheduling

India had only three full days between their New Zealand tour opener in Auckland on Friday and the final ODI in Bangalore versus Australia, which was on January 19.

It reflects how packed the schedule is, with captain Virat Kohli taking a dig at the scheduling aspect.

“Well, it’s definitely getting closer and closer to landing at the stadium and playing straightaway,” was Kohli’s tongue-in-cheek comment, even though he said it smilingly, on the eve of the first T20I versus the Black Caps.

“That’s how compressed the game has become, but I think this kind of travel and coming to a place, which is seven hours ahead of India time, is always difficult to adjust to immediately.

“So, I am sure these things will be taken into consideration much more in the future… Yeah, it is what it is, and you can do whatever you can to get better and get on the park again, and that’s international cricket for you today. It’s back to back,” he added.

After the New Zealand tour concludes on March 4 with the second and final Test, India will host South Africa for the first of three ODIs just after eight days. The last of those ODIs is on March 18 with the IPL likely to start in the last week of March, leaving a gap of just over a week or so for the players.

Kohli, however, pointed out its positives as well. “The last series we played against Australia was ODIs, so we spent more time on the field. But we played a few T20Is before that.

“Having played a lot more cricket than just T20s in the last three games, we will find it easier to come here and play even though with less time to prepare.

“We are looking forward to that because this is the year of the World Cup and so every T20 match is important,” the skipper emphasised.

According to Kohli, touring New Zealand is much more relaxing than what it is in case of other countries, as cricketers don’t seem to have a larger-than-life image there.

“Any New Zealand tour is much more relaxed. Every tour is a representation of how people look at the game in that region and in New Zealand the game is looked at as a job for the guys that play the game.

“It is not larger than life or the most important thing in life. It is part of the New Zealand culture and it is just a sport. They get on with it, but they also play really hard and want to win the game.

“They are dejected or depressed if they don’t win, so I think it is a wonderful balance and something that every team that comes to New Zealand loves this tour.

“… New Zealanders are the most relaxed and chilled out and professional in what they do,” Kohli elaborated.

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Virat not after revenge

Virat not after revenge

Virat Kohli isn’t thinking of revenge when they meet New Zealand in the first of the five T20Is in Auckland on Friday. New Zealand had ousted India from the 50-over World Cup last year during their semi-final meeting in Manchester.

New Zealand had reduced India to 24 for four while defending 239, and even though India fought back with half-centuries from Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, India lost by 18 runs.

Friday’s tour-opening T20I is the first clash between the two sides since then.

Kohli has spoken repeatedly about how devastating the loss was for him personally.

“Even if you want to think of revenge, these guys are so nice you cannot get into that zone,” said Kohli at the pre-match press conference.

“We get along really well with these guys and it’s all about being competitive on the field. As I said in England, they are probably one side that has set the example for teams to play international cricket,” he reasoned.

“… They obviously want to bring out the best they can in every ball and every game, they are intense in their body language, they are not nasty, they are not doing things which are not acceptable on the field,” he pointed out.

Williamson and his men had drawn effusive praise for their grace in the aftermath of a heartbreaking World Cup final loss to England, a game that was decided on boundary count after the scores were tied.

“It is not about any kind of revenge, it is two quality sides playing good cricket. It is a challenge to beat New Zealand here and we are totally up for it,” Kohli said.

Virat reckoned the home team would be the favourites and would not make the mistake of taking them lightly despite the recent injury setbacks.

New Zealand will also take confidence from the fact that they had beaten India 2-1 in the T20I series a year ago.

“They will have slight home advantage but we have played a lot here in the past seasons. Every series is a fresh start and New Zealand in New Zealand is obviously a bigger challenge than playing them back in India. So we definitely have to be at our best game,” he said.

Kohli reiterated that KL Rahul’s would perform the dual role of a batsman and wicket-keeper providing better balance to the side.

“As I said him doing well with the gloves has really opened up a scenario for us where it gives us a lot more balance in playing an extra batsman. This is something that we are looking to continue for a while, nothing taken away from anyone else and it is just what he brings to the side.

“And I know there will be a lot said about, talks around what happens to other players and what not, but the most important thing is what the team requires and the best balance we can create for the side,” he said in a veiled reference to the future of Rishabh Pant.

“He’s (Rahul) open to accepting any kind of role, whatever the team wants. He is a total team man and you can tell the way he keeps as well. He is always looking for an opportunity and looking to make a play. He’s not nervous about it.”

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Ishant & Dhawan ruled out

Ishant & Dhawan ruled out

shant Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have been ruled out of the Test and limited overs series, respectively, against New Zealand because of injuries. While Ishant has suffered a grade-three tear in his ankle during a Ranji Trophy match at the Kotla, Dhawan sustained a shoulder injury while fielding in the final ODI against Australia in Bangalore.

“An MRI of his (Dhawan) shoulder was conducted, and the results have confirmed a grade II injury of his acromio-clavicular joint. His hand will be in a sling and he has been advised rest for some time.

“He will start his active rehab management in the first week of February at the National Cricket Academy (NCA),” the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said in a statement.

Prithvi Shaw could make his ODI debut in New Zealand after he was named as the replacement for the three-match series, starting February 5. For the five-match T20I series, beginning Friday, Sanju Samson will come in.

Ishant Sharma, playing for Delhi, had twisted his ankle on his follow through while bowling against Vidarbha on Monday.
Ishant Sharma, playing for Delhi, had twisted his ankle on his follow through while bowling against Vidarbha on Monday.File picture

According to sources, Shaw was preferred by the team management since he could perform the role of an opener, if needed. Ajinkya Rahane was in the mix especially after India’s debacle in the opening ODI versus Australia but Shreyas Iyer sealed the No.4 berth with a convincing performance in Bangalore.

That it would be awkward to bench a senior like Rahane, if picked in the squad, also worked against his selection.

Shaw is already in New Zealand with the India A squad. The 20-year old opener struck a 150 against New Zealand A in a warm-up game on Sunday. For the record, Shaw had led India to U-19 World Cup triumph in New Zealand in 2017.

Like Shaw, Sanju Samson too is already in New Zealand with the India A squad.

As for Ishant, the BCCI is still taking a wait and watch policy. But things aren’t looking too good.

“Ishant’s MRI report shows a grade-three ankle tear and it is serious. He has been advised six weeks of rest and rehabilitation,” a Delhi and Districts Cricket Association official said.

Ishant, playing for Delhi, had twisted his ankle on his follow through while bowling against Vidarbha on Monday.

The Test series against New Zealand is scheduled to start on February 21, in Wellington while the practice game they play ahead of it starts on February 14.

The BCCI will make its own assessment at the NCA in Bangalore before an official announcement is made.

According to reports, Ishant was seen limping when he arrived at the Kotla on Tuesday. He soon left the ground.

His Vidarbha opponent Umesh Yadav is likely to be the third quick in the Tests in New Zealand.

Navdeep Saini is expected to be the back-up fast bowler should Ishant be unavailable for the Test series. The 31-year-old and 96 Test veteran is an integral part of arguably India’s best-ever pace attack comprising Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh.

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Lessons key to crack NZ

Lessons key to crack NZ

The demolition of Aaron Finch’s men complete, Virat Kohli has a fresh target in mind: Mission New Zealand.

The India captain knows it’s not going to be easy against Kane Williamson and Co. though he is taking a lot of confidence from their performance there during the last visit.

India won the one-day series in New Zealand 4-1 in January 2019 though New Zealand prevailed in the T20Is 2-1.

But it’s been almost six years since India last played a Test series in New Zealand. In 2013-14, they lost the two-match encounter 0-1 under Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy.

This time India will play five T20Is, three ODIs and two Tests in New Zealand.

“We’re taking a lot of confidence from our performance (in NZ) last year. We were very positive in how we played, very sure of what we wanted to do.

“The thing about playing away is if you’re able to put the home team under pressure, you can enjoy your cricket. You have to win at home, there’s that sort of feeling. So if you bring out your A game, you can really put them under pressure,” Virat remarked after the 2-1 ODI series win over Australia.

“That’s what we did last year, squeezed them in the middle overs, picked up wickets, the spinners were outstanding… We’re looking forward to taking that same intensity into the series. We’ve played really well in 2020 and want to continue.”

Virat felt the home series victory on the eve of their departure will help.

“It’s important. We spoke of that at the huddle, that this is the last game we’re playing in the series and if we win, you go on a tour on a happy note. If you lose, it can go under the radar, you can brush it aside as ‘oh it’s just one loss’.

“But when you win and win under pressure — the last two games were tough wins — it boosts your confidence which we’re carrying forward, so looking forward to the New Zealand tour.”

The Team India captain spoke about “clarity of mind” and being alert from the outset. “Again, we want to bat well when we bat first and in case we’re defending a low total, we should be able to do that as well… Clarity of mind is really crucial because we’re playing in conditions that are not ours, so we have to take even more intensity into that series,” he said.

Virat has already made it clear that they will persist with KL Rahul as wicketkeeper “for a while” since that gives more “options” and “balance” to the team.

He said they have learnt to keep the toss out of the equation. This, he said, was discussed soon after their World Cup semi-final exit against New Zealand.

“You can’t always look for situations that go your way at the toss,” he said. “If we like chasing as a team, it doesn’t mean we press the panic button if we lose the toss. We’ve to stay composed enough to put in strong performances, which we’ve done,” Virat said.

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New goal for Mohun Bagan

New goal for Mohun Bagan

A marriage of convenience may not always be a bad thing. It can, at times, come with unexpected blessings for the two partners. Consider the union of Mohun Bagan, one of Calcutta’s oldest and most successful football clubs, with ATK, a franchise that is part of the Indian Super League. Mohun Bagan will be hoping that it would walk down the hallowed corridors of the ISL, the tournament that now claims, with quite a bit of help from the All India Football Federation, to be India’s premier football competition, by holding on to ATK’s hand. The marriage is also likely to sweeten ATK’s prospects of creating a niche for itself within Calcutta’s football fraternity, which has remained stubbornly faithful in its support for traditional powerhouses such as Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.

But nuptials bring with them their own set of uncertainties, especially when the power dynamics of the relationship are expected to be asymmetrical. Mohun Bagan sold 80 per cent of its stakes to make the merger possible. The dire financial prospects of the Maidan giant must have been a deciding factor in this trade-off. The unequal partnership has been a matter of concern for the fans who believe that the rich history and legacy aboard the Mariners’ boat would now be drowned by the imperatives of corporatization. Yet it cannot be denied that the commercialization of football is the key to the survival of not just the game but also of clubs. Some of the most successful football clubs — Manchester City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich to cite a few examples — operate like well oiled corporations with the profits ploughed back to support not only patrons and players but also the beautiful game itself. Nostalgia must not be allowed to snuff out the spirit of pragmatism at a time when football itself is being revolutionized by the cocktail of commerce and entertainment. However, what Mohun Bagan and ATK — the newly-weds — must bear in mind is their commitment to raise the standards of Indian football. Fresh funds, quality infrastructure and professionalism could create an enduring supply chain of talent that would eventually help better India’s dismal Fifa rankings. If that were to happen, ATK-Mohun Bagan would be proud parents of an exciting crop of future stars.

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ATK go on top

ATK go on top

ATK rode Pritam Kotal and Jayesh Rane’s strikes to beat FC Goa 2-0 in the ISL VI match at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday.

But what grabbed the eyeballs was Mohun Bagan’s Srinjoy Bose and Debasish Dutta’s presence at the VVIP Lounge.

They were at the stadium to invite ATK principal owner Sanjiv Goenka and co-owner Utsav Parekh to watch Sunday’s I-League Derby against East Bengal. It remains to be whether Goenka and Parekh will be there for the Derby.

The win saw ATK climbing to the top of the table with 24 points from 13 matches.

Kotal drew first blood in the 47th minute, when he nodded in a Roy Krishna floater. Rane increased the margin in the 88th minute.

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Must win, Rohit or no Rohit

Must win, Rohit or no Rohit

The Chinnaswamy on Saturday evening was a far cry from the throbbing atmosphere that is expected on the eve of a pulsating decider involving India and Australia.

Apart from a few passers-by trying to make sense of the floodlights and the heightened activity of the TV crew, there was hardly anything to suggest that the Virat Kohlis and the Steve Smiths were in the city.

The stars, however, were missing from the match-eve action, having spent the day travelling after another high-voltage clash. The Indians finally recovered some lost ground in Rajkot after the 10-wicket blow at the Wankhede.

The alarm bells were ringing but India’s top and middle-order allayed fears with conviction and solidity in Rajkot. KL Rahul has provided fresh hope when all seemed lost.

The likes of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins had exposed India’s fragile middle-order in the opener. Four wickets went crashing for 30 runs and it brought to the fore the middle-order mess that has time and again haunted India in this format.

The visitors could have done an encore on Friday had Rahul not played a blinder in the closing stages of the innings and set an imposing target. The bowling, besides Jasprit Bumrah, wasn’t that encouraging and the Aussies have to be blamed for plotting their own downfall after the departure of Smith and Marnus Labuschagne.

KL Rahul in Rajkot on Friday
KL Rahul in Rajkot on Friday(AP)

The result prompted Virat Kohli to calm nerves amid the sense of fright that had engulfed the nation. “We live in the days of social media and the panic button was being pressed too early,” the India captain said.

Rahul has given the thinktank the option of using him as a wicketkeeper-batsman in the limited-overs version, the kind of role Rahul Dravid excelled in during the 2003 World Cup. Besides serving as a backup to Rishabh Pant, he has also served a notice to the youngster: perform or perish.

Having proved his worth batting at No.5 in Rajkot with an innings which had a strike rate of over 100, he offers more flexibility to the batting order. If Virat is dismissed early, he can move up the order to No.4 when the need arises or play the role of a aggressive finisher as witnessed on Friday evening.

That his wicketkeeping skills are trustworthy was exhibited in the manner he stumped Aaron Finch off Ravindra Jadeja. Such quicksilver reflexes can also be relied upon in the T20 format.

“This is probably the best he’s played at the international level. That knock showed maturity and class,” Virat paid the ultimate compliment for Rahul’s 80 off 52 balls.

If Rahul set the stage on fire, Shikhar Dhawan had laid the platform with another innings of guts and courage. The opener, who was struck on the ribs while batting, is reportedly fit for the decider but there’s still uncertainty over Rohit Sharma’s availability.

The India vice-captain hurt his left shoulder while fielding. The recovery of both the openers is “being closely monitored” and the team management will take “a call on their participation on the day of the match”, was the news from the Indian camp. But considering Rohit’s importance to the side and the repercussions a negative result could fetch, the team management will be forced to think twice before resting him on Sunday.

Even Smith was concerned about Rohit’s injury. “He’s a world class player. And if he’s no good, you know, we wish him all the best. Hopefully he will be okay.

“But if he’s not, I’m sure he does leave a hole for them because he is phenomenal at the top of the order. I think his record speaks for itself,” the former captain said.

The Chinnaswamy is known to produce a belter but Kuldeep Yadav’s unorthodox bowling could once again prove to be the trump card. There’s been not much dew but it remained cloudy for most of Saturday and intermittent showers can’t be ruled out.

But the Australians seem prepared to tackle the worst. They know they have to be the toughest mentally, hungriest on the field and the most closely knit unit to battle the adversities. They are determined to regain their one-day status, and if they can topple India, they would have taken a huge step in their endeavour.

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Youth Games organisers respond to grievances

Youth Games organisers respond to grievances

Teams and players have been provided transportation from hotel to the stadium and better hotel facilities at the third Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG) here.

The Telegraph had recently reported “mismanage-ment” by the organisers.

Team officials who had informed about the alleged mismanagement said the organisers had responded to their issues and sorted out everything accordingly on Saturday.

“We are thankful to the organisers for the response. I have always said that the event is for the players and they should be given priority. I hope the rest of the competition will be fine,” an official of a participating team said.

Sources said not only have the organisers arranged for transport of players and officials of the teams from hotel to the event venues and back, they have also arranged for reimbursement of cab fares the teams had to bear to travel to venues over the past week.

However, some of the officials, volunteers and other workforce still complained that they were yet to receive their accreditation cards resulting in hardship for them to render service.

“We are denied access to the venues at the entry points without the accreditation cards and at the dining halls, among others. When we are sent for official work outside the venue, we are asked for our accreditation cards but when we produce temporary passes provided by the organisers, we are told those cards will not do,” said one of the volunteers at the Sarusajai sports complex.

Altogether 20 sports disciplines are being held for the first time at the KIYG — cycling and lawn bowls being the latest additions.

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