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The Good, Bad & Ugly ft. Vijender Singh, MS Dhoni and Manjapadda

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The Good, Bad & Ugly ft. Vijender Singh, MS Dhoni and Manjapadda

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SportsCafe Desk

12/09/2018

From Vijender Singh signing a deal with Bob Arum, to Sunil Gavaskar throwing light at BCCI’s partiality towards star cricketers, to IAAF categorizing India as a high doping risk country and Afghan women’s sexual abuse claims coming true – we bring you the good, bad and ugly from this week.

The Good

India might not have a large fan base when it comes to boxing, leave alone professional boxing, but the recent developments is definitely a promising one. Vijender Singh’s latest signing of a 15-month deal with top promoter Bob Arum was surely exciting news for the pack of boxing followers that India have. Vijender also revealed that if everything goes as per the planning, then he could see himself facing the winner of the much anticipated bout between Canelo Alvarez and Rocky Fielding. For the uninitiated, Alvarez is a multiple-time world champion in two weight classes. 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist, Vijender is also a WBO Asia Pacific and Oriental super middle weight champion and has remained unbeaten since going professional back in 2015. While the possibility of all this happening is actually thin despite Vijender promising his fans he would bring home a world title by 2019, these are exciting times and Vijender could be pioneering India into a sport they have hardly had any success.

It is a known fact that popular cricketers in India have almost a God status. But, it is all at the ground level and one primary duty for BCCI is to keep the cricketers out of the seeming bubble and remind them of their job every now and then. Unfortunately, some cricketers seem to enjoy immense power in the office as well and Sunil Gavaskar did well to point MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan’s absence from the domestic circuit. While Dhoni had last played the long format before he had retired from it in 2014, Dhawan was also found having an off-season of sorts in Melbourne at the moment after he was dropped from the Test squad in Australia. So, after last playing in October, Dhoni would be playing in January next and Gavaskar pointed out that his lack of game time could well raise questions about his form ahead of the 2019 World Cup. However, before Dhoni would defend himself by stating that the long-format isn’t necessary for him anymore, Gavaskar stated that a player’s reflex slows with age and any form of cricket would serve as a good practice for the player – which sounds pretty logical. 

The Bad

BCCI has been adamant on not playing pink ball or day-night Test matches for long now. Now, the India cricket board has a lot of reasons for their refusal. Playing under the lights would bring in the dew factor, which would be a huge disadvantage of the spinners – India’s biggest weapon in the longest format. The pink ball is also designed in a way that doesn’t allow the shine to lose fast, compared to the red ball, which massively delays a team’s ability to reverse swing. Traveling as the World No. 1 Test side also comes with massive expectations and BCCI is quite comprehensively denying Cricket Australia’s request. However, this also puts the powerful cricketing nation in bad light for others have already taken to it and India’s repetitive refusal citing inexperience only makes them look weak given the players they have. Adelaide saw massive dwindling in spectators in the opening day where the crowd was recorded at 24,000, compared to 47,000, 32,000 and 55,000 on previous D/N Tests. BCCI has been criticized by one and sundry for their stance and it is time they changed it.

One week after five Indian athletes - Nirmala Sheoran, Sanjivini Jadhav, Jhuma Khatun, Sandeep Kumari, Naveen Chikara - were tested positive after the dope test, reports have emerged that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has decided to place India in high doping risk category as per its new categorization. As per Hindustan Times, the IAAF has classified all countries into three categories based on their athletes’ proclivity towards doping and success rate. The Group A would have nations with high doping risk and high success rate while the third group (Group C) having low doping risk and success rate. India are put in the Group B (high risk and low success rate category) and although the move might not be a direct consequence of the revelation of five athletes, given the proximity of announcement to the incident, it seems very unlikely. Either way, this puts the nation in bad light after their recent achievements in the Asian Games following some athletes became household names. The world body has stated that it will have an annual review of the doping cases from each nations and the groups could be changed accordingly.

The Ugly

In many ways, the Indian Super League, which had started five years back, is coming to fruition now. After the glamour and glitz initially brought in the much needed followers, the league is now seeing more matches over a longer span of time with more quality game play and close contests. However, good cannot exist without bad and Kerala Blasters have been experiencing a love lost with their 12th man. One of the biggest elements that keep a league alive, the fans have voiced their concerns about the club’s way of playing football, and the situation has deteriorated so much so that they have stopped coming to matches. The Blasters’ last two matches against Jamshedpur FC and FC Pune City have seen a minimal crowd and while the team showed some grit to fight back for a draw, they looked a defeated side against Pune from the very beginning and they succumbed to a defeat as well. The empty stands didn’t go down well for German legend Lothar Matthaus, who visited India and was present at the match. Appalled by the lack of support he was seen requesting the crowd to turn up. While the onus obviously lies with the management to change things for the better, the fans making things ugly isn’t helping at all.

Things have changed rapidly fast for the Afghanistan women football. Four years back, the country was applauded for starting its first all-women's football league, which was supposed to run in parallel with the men's. By 2017, the female teams were sidelined for lack of funding and it was followed by news of senior figures of the team sexually abusing the players at the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) headquarters, and at a training camp in Jordan last February. It led to a furor with President Ashraf Ghani ordering the attorney general to have a thorough investigation to the claims, which has now led to the suspension of the president of the football federation, his deputy, the federation's secretary general, the head of goalkeepers and the head of provincial coordinators. First appearing in Britain’s The Guardian, the story had cited former captain Khalida Popal, who had run away from the country after receiving death threats. She had previously revealed that male officials used to coerce female players. FIFA has agreed to look into the claims while the Danish sportswear company Hummel has cancelled their sponsorship deal with the team after the allegations.

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