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In the zone- South

Thomson to guide aspiring fast bowlers in Karnataka

Jeff Thomson, who was one of the most feared fast bowlers of his era, continues to contribute to fast bowling even after his retirement well over three decades ago.

Over the years, the Australian has honed the skills of many reputed fast bowlers, and the list is long and impressive. To name a few – J Srinath, Chaminda Vaas, Venkatesh Prasad, Makhaya Ntini, all have benefitted by tapping in on Thomson’s wisdom.

Now, the young, aspiring fast bowlers in Karnataka will have an opportunity to pick the brains of this legend, who has donned the mantle of the head coach of the bowling foundation sponsored by the IDBI Federal Life Insurance under the supervision of Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA).

He has a word of advice for the pace bowlers – enjoy the life as a fast bowler and never stop being aggressive.

“You have to be aggressive. If not, then, you are wasting your time. Even spinners are aggressive now. I don’t like it when society says you are bad if you are bowling bouncers. If someone bowls two, then you are a bad guy! That’s a bad rule I feel,” said the 65-year-old former fast bowler.

Thomson, who has been recently inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame, said the Indian stint so far has been enjoyable. He stated that it has been a pleasant experience to interact with Indian domestic cricketers. “The Ranji players from Karnataka came to me and asked, ‘What did I think before a match.’ I told them, ‘I don’t let the batsman play the way he wants. You need a plan.”

26 aspiring bowlers have started training at the Chinnaswamy stadium under the watchful eyes of Thomson, and two other coaches – Roger Binny and Raghuram Bhat.

“This academy is a pot of gold. It will help India in the long run in finding some fine bowling talents. More than the technical aspect, my focus here will be on developing the bowlers mentally and their thinking,” Thomson stated.

“This is a wonderful moment for us in KSCA to ink this deal with IDBI Federal Life Insurance to launch this bowling foundation with Jeff Thomson as the head coach. We have many talented youngsters in various age groups who are being nurtured. It will be a great opportunity for them to get groomed by some of the greats of the yesteryears,” said Brijesh Patel, secretary of the KSCA.

Andhra emerge champions

Spurred by centuries from captain and opener S Meghana (143 off 155b - 14x4, 1x6) and N Anusha (100* off 128b - 12x4), Andhra hammered Hyderabad by 179 runs in the final round-robin league match to emerge champions in the South Zone women’s cricket league (Under-23).

Opting to bat, Andhra suffered an early jolt when opener Jhansilaxmi was dismissed by Arundhati in the second over. However, a 268-ball 240-run stand between Meghana and Anusha ensured that there were no more hiccups for the team.

In reply, Hyderabad was never in the chase as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Medium-pacer Jhansilaxmi (four for 13) and leg-spinner Thalluri Mallika (three for four) bowled well to skittle Hyderabad out for a paltry 81.

Andhra finished at the top with 20 points followed by Hyderabad (12), Karnataka (12), Goa (6), Tamil Nadu (6) and Kerala (4).
Brief scores: Andhra 260/2 in 50 overs (S Meghana 143, N. Anusha 100*) beat Hyderabad 81/10 in 41.2 overs (Jhansilaxmi 4/13, T Mallika 3/4) by 179 runs.

Free cricket coaching camp for youth in Thalassery

The EK Nayanar Academy, a part of the Thalassery Sports Foundation, will impart free coaching to aspiring cricketers from March at the Thalassery Corporation stadium premises. The camp will be conducted through the summer vacation. Accommodation will be provided to those budding cricketers who come from remote areas of the Kannur district.

The camp, in which some prominent cricketers from the state will assume the coaching mantle, is mainly targeting Under-16 players. Initially, the camp will be on weekends but as the summer holidays sweep in, the camp will be extended to other days too. Thalassery has a long tradition as a cricket destination in the state, as many of the old time players and clubs emerged from this North Kerala town.

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In the zone – North

For Babita Negi, kid brother Pawan Negi has always been a star

Few years back, in pursuit of getting an Engineering degree, cricketer Pawan Negi’s sister Babita Negi had got placed in Vidyapeet College in Pune. However, she did not want to leave her hometown Delhi, so she decided to stay back and enrolled herself in the local Gargi College. At the time, Babita’s younger brother Pawan was doing well for Delhi in the junior circuit. Seeing him to do well, Babita too took to cricket and trained to become a left-arm spinner. Pawan would go to Gargi College for training too and often helped his sister with her bowling. There was no looking back for Babita thereafter. She played for Delhi, North Zone, Delhi University and even managed to bag a berth in the India senior women’s camp in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Today, Babita is an employee with the Northern Railways, and trains at National Stadium as well as Gargi College ground. The 25-year-old credits the start to her cricket career to Pawan. She said, “Pawan started to indulge in the game at an early age. I was more into badminton when it came to sports. It did not ever occur to me that I could start to train to become a cricketer like Pawan. I was more inclined towards studies. When I joined Gargi College, Pawan really backed me. I can say I got interested in the sport due to him.” Babita and Pawan, whose roots are in Almora in Uttarakhand, were born and brought up in Delhi. Babita is very proud of her kid brother’s achievements and feels he has always been a star. “February has been a lucky for the family. It has been a double whammy for us. First, Titu’s (Pawan’s nickname) selection in the India team and then his inclusion in the Delhi Daredevils team for the upcoming edition of the Indian Premiere League (IPL). We are very proud of him and wish him success.” People have been pouring in with their wishes, said Babita, who was trained by coach Surjeet Verma in the initial years. Babita’s favourite cricketers are MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina.

For this brother-sister duo, their parents are a pillar of strength and great motivators. Their father, GS Negi works with the University Grant Commission in Delhi and mother Kamla Negi is a housewife. “We have had a very liberal environment at home. We were always allowed to chase our passions and dreams. Earlier, I wanted to be an engineer, so was encouraged (to pursue it) and when I wanted to quit that and pursue B.SC along with cricket, I was motivated to do that. Had I not been pushed to take up cricket by Pawan, maybe I would have not been into any sport and would be working for any MNC. God has been kind and cricket has changed our lives for the better,” said Babita, who has also played under Anjum Chopra for Delhi.

On a lot many occasions, Babita and Pawan practice together either at the National Stadium or at Gargi College and enjoy the friendly banter.

“My friends from the cricket circle are too thrilled to see Pawan doing well in his career. They have seen him work hard. It would be great to see him perform well for India in the Asia Cup and World T20 followed by the IPL for Delhi Daredevils,” Babita said. Pawan used to play for Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings before returning to DD.

Punjab’s Harmanpreet, HP’s Sushma seal berths on Women’s ICC World T20 

The Indian women’s cricket team rose to glory recently when they clinched their first series win outside India by beating Australia 3-2 in the three-match T20 series Down Under. Punjab’s Harmanpreet Kaur Bhullar and Himachal Pradesh’s Sushma Verma did well for the team and secured berths in the Women’s ICC World T20 to be played in India in March.

Harmanpreet, 26, hails from Moga in Punjab while Sushma, 23, is from Shimla in HP. While Harmanpreet brings in experience as well as skills in batting and bowling departments, Sushma, a wicketkeeper-batsman has a sharp eye behind the stumps. Both are employees of Indian Railways and represent Railways in the India’s domestic competitions.

Like Harmanpreet is a role model for budding cricketers in Punjab, Sushma also enjoys an iconic figure for the aspiring women cricketers of the hills.

Harmanpreet, a right-hand batsman, has already played two World Cups and four World T20s. She made her ODI debut in 2009 and Test debut in 2014. Sushma, who will be keeping the wickets for India, proved herself in the role during the T20 home series against New Zealand last year. Sushma is the first woman cricketer from HP to have made it to the Indian team. At present, both are part of the ODI series in Australia.

Harmanpreet learnt early lessons of the sport at Moga under coach Yadwinder Singh Sodhi. Sushma, played various games such as Hockey, Handball and Volleyball besides trying athletics before sticking to cricket. Both the North Zone cricketers would also slug out against Sri Lanka in the three-match ODI series to be played at Ranchi from February 15-19. The Indian women’s team would look to beat Sri Lanka in the ODI series to gain confidence ahead of the World T20. 

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