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Sumit Nagal achieves career-best ranking of 129

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Indian tennis player Sumit Nagal on Monday achieved a career-best ranking of 129 after jumping six places in the latest men’s singles rankings. The 22-year-old Nagal, who has been in good form of late, reaped the benefit of a semi-final finish at the ATP Challenger Campinas in Brazil last week.

Nagal had attainted his career-best ranking of 135 after jumping 26 spots, riding on a title finish at the Buenos Aires ATP Challenger clay event in Argentina last month.

The talented youngster from Haryana was in the limelight after he made his Grand Slam debut and produced a spirited fight against the legendary Roger Federer in the first-round of the US Open.

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Virat Kohli’s Team India eye historic first against South Africa in Ranchi Test

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Ever since South Africa chose India to announce their return to international cricket in the post-apartheid era, the two nations have shared a special bond on the cricket field. However intense the rivalry on the pitch, mutual respect for each other never deserted the players. Despite the amiable relations and geniality off the pitch, the two teams have played some fierce encounters against each other.

In Test cricket, South Africa holds a slight edge over India in the head to head. While the Proteas have won 15 matches, India have registered 13 victories. India’s dominance in home conditions means they have lost just one series at home to the Proteas, which came right at the turn of the century. India are yet to win a series on South African soil, having lost 1-2 in their last attempt in 2018.

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Virat Kohli and his team though have wrapped up the ongoing series, after a comprehensive win in the second Test at Pune. The team which created a world record of most consecutive Test series wins at home, is now on the cusp of another special record. If Kohli’s Team India manages to win the Ranchi Test, it will be their maiden clean sweep over the Proteas.

India came very close to achieving this feat during South Africa’s last tour in 2015, but were denied by the rain gods as the second Test in Bengaluru was washed out and India eventually won the 4-match series 3-0. But Ranchi presents a great opportunity to this team to complete a first ever whitewash.

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This will also be the first ever whitewash by either of these teams against each other in a series comprising 3 or more matches. South Africa 2-0 win over India in India in 2000 remains the only series when a team won all the matches in a series.

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MS Dhoni army training: David Lloyd’s cheeky Twitter post leaves fans fuming

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A lot has been said about former India captain MS Dhoni’s decision to opt out of the upcoming tour of West Indies and his desire to train with the parachute regiment of the Territorial army. From speculations about retirement to his future role has been debated by pundits and fans alike.

Former England cricketer and commentator David Lloyd’s response to the news on Twitter though was quite cheeky. Lloyd responded to a tweet by Sky Sports Cricket with two ‘face with tears of joy’ emoticons and that has not gone down well with Dhoni’s fans.

Fans have slammed Lloyd for disrespecting Dhoni’s decision and there have been many angry reactions to the tweet. The wicket-keeper batsman had requested the Indian Army to allow him to train with a territorial army battalion of the Parachute regiment for two months. “The request has now been approved by the Indian Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat and the honorary Lt Col would train with the Parachute regiment battalion,” top Army sources told ANI.

The Army, however, will not allow Dhoni, who holds an honorary post of Lieutenant Colonel in the Territorial Army, to be part of any active operation, sources mentioned. India will tour West Indies for three T20Is and as many ODIs, and two Tests which are part of World Test Championship from August 3 to September 3.

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‘MS Dhoni not retiring from cricket now,’ says top BCCI official – Report

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MS Dhoni, the former India captain, on Saturday made himself “unavailable” for India’s tour of West Indies which gave rise to the ‘has Dhoni retired?’ question but much to the relief of his billions of fans, Dhoni has ruled out immediate retirement a day before the selectors meet in Mumbai to pick the three squads for the upcoming away series, starting on August 3.

Amid mounting speculation around his international retirement after India’s semi-final exit from the recent World Cup, Dhoni has told the BCCI that he will take a two-month sabbatical from the game to serve his paramilitary regiment.

Dhoni is an Honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the Parachute Regiment of the Territorial Army, “We would like to clarify three things. MS Dhoni is not retiring from cricket right now. He is taking a two month sabbatical to serve his paramilitary regiment which he had committed much earlier. We have now intimated his decision to skipper Virat Kohli and chairman of selectors MSK Prasad,” a senior BCCI official told PTI on Saturday.

The 38-year-old Dhoni’s refusal to take retirement now leaves the ball in the court of the selectors, who were expected to drop him from the squad for the West Indies. India will play three T20 Internationals, as many ODIs and two Tests in the tour starting August 3. It is believed that the selection committee chaired by MSK Prasad wants to move forward with an eye on future but they would also like to get a sense of where the Indian captain stands on this issue.

“The selection committee has always been clear on one issue. They have no right to tell anyone irrespective of their stature as to when they should call it quits but when it comes to team selection, it remains their domain,” a senior BCCI official said.

With Dhoni pulling out of the tour, Rishabh Pant is expected to be first wicketkeeper in all three formats while Wriddhiman Saha will be Pant’s understudy in the Tests.

From now, the focus will be more on T20 cricket keeping the World T20 in mind, which is scheduled to be held in Australia next year.

India will be playing a lot of bilateral three-match T20 series in run-up to the global meet and with Dhoni expected to play one more season of IPL with Chennai Super Kings, things are a bit tricky at the moment.

There are a few questions that the selectors need to answer.

Whether they see Dhoni playing till World T20? If the answer is yes, are they willing to give him 15 to 18 T20s during the phase as a keeper-batsman? If that answer is also yes, it would boil down to whether skipper Virat Kohli sees him as a batsman in T20s where keeping isn’t the primary skill required.

With Dhoni’s ever-declining hitting abilities, can he come in at Nos 6 or 7 where he might, at best, get 6 to 8 balls in most games and even less in some? If that answer is also yes, the next question that would crop up is if he can hit the likes of Jofra Archer, Jason Behrendorff or Mohammed Amir straightaway in the slog overs. There is a case about Dhoni’s stellar success in death overs at the IPL. He always gets one weak Indian bowler — say a Mohammed Siraj, Harshal Patel or Dhawal Kulkarni or Sandeep Sharma from whom he scores those 15 to 20-run overs.

But would that be possible against a Lockie Ferguson or a Pat Cummins? The current selection committee’s term ends in October when the BCCI elections are scheduled and they would like to put a transition phase in place in consonance with what the captain and the coach want.

However, once the board members take over after the elections and if Dhoni decides to stick with his decision of not retiring, there could be some twists and turns in the coming months.

Till then, all roads lead to the BCCI headquarters on Sunday where Prasad will address the most defining press conference of his eventful tenure.

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