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MS Dhoni to retire after World Cup 2019? Chief selector MSK Prasad has his say

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The importance of MS Dhoni to this Indian team which gets ready for the World Cup is not a hidden secret anymore and everyone from the head coach, to the captain and the players, have spoken about the role of Dhoni in the side.

There are also speculations being made that the 2019 edition could be Dhoni’s last in India colours as the former captain could call it quits after the tournament. However, chief selector MSK Prasad has said that any discussions on these lines have not taken place so far.

“We have definitely not discussed this. Because prior to such a big tournament, I do not think it is wise to get distracted, since all energies are geared towards preparing well for the World Cup,” he said in a conversation with ESPNCricinfo.

Speaking about his form, Prasad said that Dhoni’s productivity with the bat will only increase with the number of matches he plays and hence, the IPL is a great opportunity for him to find the groove yet again.

“Importantly, before India head to the World Cup, he will be playing the IPL. So he will be playing in 14-16 matches – all high-intensity games. That will only help him extend that form he has caught on the Australia and New Zealand tours. I am very happy with his batting,” he further added.

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Shardul Thakur becomes first India cricketer to resume outdoor training

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Pacer Shardul Thakur on Saturday became the first India cricketer to resume outdoor training after a two-month coronavirus-forced break.

Thakur, who has featured in one Test, 11 ODIs and 15 T20s, hit a local ground at Boisar in Maharashtra’s Palghar district along with some domestic players.

The Maharashtra government has allowed the opening of stadiums for individual training in green and orange zones without spectators. This was after the home ministry offered relaxation in restrictions for the fourth phase of the lockdown till May 31.

“Yes, we practised today. It was good and definitely pleasing to practice after two months,” Thakur told PTI.

An official said that that the Palghar Dahanu Taluka Sports Association started the net sessions at Boisar, which is around 110 kms away from Mumbai.

Strict safety protocols were followed, with each bowler getting his own set of disinfected balls.

“All the safety measures were followed. The bowlers got their own balls which were disinfected and temperatures of the players who came for practise were also checked,” the official said.

Mumbai batsman Hardik Tamore, who made his Ranji debut for the domestic giants last season, was also seen training at the same ground.

“Once the guidelines from the Palghar District collector (state government) was issued concerning sports, it was always the aim to begin training process,” Mumbai Cricket Association, Council member Ajinkya Naik said.

“Due to our fantastic facility in Palghar district, we were able to facilitate much-needed training program to our esteemed players while adhering to social distancing norms and hygiene,” he added.

All sporting action in the country has been halted since March 25, when the first nationwide lockdown, to stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, was announced by the central government.

Top cricketers like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who have resorted to home workouts to keep themselves fit during the lockdown, are still waiting to resume individual training.

Only India pacer Mohammed Shami has been able to train outside, in his own farm land.

On Thursday, England’s Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes became the first set of cricketers to return to individual training at their local county grounds.

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India loses hosting rights for 2021 boxing World Championships

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New Delhi on Tuesday lost hosting rights for the 2021 men’s boxing World Championships after the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) failed to pay the host fee. The International Boxing Association (AIBA) said that additionally, the BFI will now have to pay a cancellation fee of $500.

“After New Delhi didn’t fulfill its obligations to pay host fee as mentioned in the Host City Agreement terms, AIBA has terminated the contract. Therefore, India would have to pay a cancellation penalty of 500.000 USD,” said the AIBA in its statement.

The tournament has now been awarded to Belgrade, Serbia and AIBA Interim President Mohamed Moustahsane said that it will hold the World Championships after the postponed Tokyo Olympics next year.

“Because of rescheduling of the Olympic 2020, AIBA Executive Committee will discuss with the host country possible dates to adjust. We believe that we will keep the planned timeframe and conduct World Championships in 2021 after the Games if the pandemic situation is under control. As soon as it is fixed, this will help our boxers to plan preparation for next year properly,” said Moustahsane.

India was awarded the hosting rights in July 2017. However, it has since run into troubled waters with the AIBA with the latter first saying that it will “re-open the bidding process for the 2021 men’s World boxing championships due to take place in India” in November 2018 after Kosovo boxer Donjeta Sadiku was excluded from the 2018 women’s World boxing championships that was held in the country due to visa issues.

In February 2020, it was reported that the AIBA had sent a legal notice to the BFI for not paying boxers who participated in the 2019 Indian Open and a reminder for the BFI to pay its hosting fees for the 2021 World Championships.

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COVID-19: IPL under threat as India suspends all visas till April15

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The Indian government has suspended all visas till April 15 due to a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the last two weeks. According to the latest data available, sixty-seven people in the country have tested positive for the virus, which has spread over 100 countries, killed over 4,5000, and a major chunk of them are tourists from Italy.

The second meeting of the Group of Ministers on Wednesday cancelled all visas, except for a few official categories, in the wake of the growing coronavirus.

The visa advisory from the Indian government has made it almost impossible for foreign players to join their respective teams in time as the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) kicks off on March 29. The foreign players have to remain out of India until April 15 and they can join in time only if the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) gets special permission.

It is to note that the foreign players are booked on business visas and in such a scenario the fresh advisory sent out by the government on Wednesday says that they won’t be allowed entry till April 15.

However, the BCCI is yet to announce its call on the issue and the Indian Premier League governing council, meanwhile, will meet on March 14 to come to terms.

Notably, the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday was declared a “pandemic” by the World Health Organisation (WHO), whose chief expressed his “deep concern” over the “alarming levels of inaction” in combating the virus spread.

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