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‘India is starting to increase their belief and play their way’ | Hockey

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Ric Charlesworth has seen hockey evolve in the last six decades. From a player to a legendary coach, the 70-year-old has been there done it all with several teams and is now currently an assistant to one of his own wards. The Australian is assisting Alyson Annan in coaching the Chinese women’s hockey team.

Currently, Charlesworth is in India as a commentator for Star Sports, the official broadcaster of the World Cup. In an interview, Charlesworth, who had a stint in India in guiding the team around 2008-09, discussed the ongoing World Cup, the changing scene in modern day hockey, India’s success at the Olympics among other topics. Excerpts:

From Bhubaneswar 2018 to Odisha 2023, what differences are you seeing in play, in the teams?

It is still a little bit early to tell. Australia is still a little bit rusty. They haven’t had enough competition (due to Covid). We saw the value of competition because even though Argentina won only one of their eight Pro League games, they are pretty hardened and organised. All teams look similar. There used to be a big difference between Asian teams and Europeans and Australia. It seems to me we have globalisation in hockey. Interestingly India is starting to increase their belief and play their way. They have introduced a lot of the things that were needed in terms of defending better. They still have very skillful players and if they trust in the way they play then they can challenge anybody.

What was your reaction when India won the bronze at Tokyo?

I wasn’t surprised. I always thought it was possible. In the bronze medal match they had a bit of fortune but they kept scoring goals. If you can do that you can win any time. In the semi-final they were very competitive. When I was in India in 2008 working with the federation, I had said it is a 10-year project if you want to be on the podium. Many of the elements that were put in place over that period of time had a range of different coaches. You started with Jose Brasa, Michael Nobbs, Terry Walsh. India made steps. The Hockey India League was very important. It was like the IPL. They started to realise international players only have two arms and two legs and nothing special. That belief grew over the decade.

How are you looking at the World Cup?

There are six teams that can win here. Germany, Belgium, Holland, Australia, England and India. The quarter-finals will reveal where we are at.

What do you think of this crossover format? Would you prefer direct quarter-finals?

It is better and more inclusive. It gives you a top 12 rather than a top 8. Sometimes somebody will have an aberration, slip up in pool matches. I am not necessarily a fan of quarter-finals which I feel are created for upsets. I certainly would like to see change in those critical one-off matches where we should play extra time and then go to a shootout.

You’ve worked with India chief coach Graham Reid. What do you think of his stint with India?

He was my assistant for six years so I know him very well. We played together and I was a referee when he was an applicant for a job in India. He has done a good job. More than anything the Covid period was very difficult. He’s been persistent and you’re seeing the rewards of that. A bit of stability in coaching is something India hasn’t had. He knows what’s required and he’s played and coached teams that are successful at this level.

Are India closing the gap to the best in the world?

I saw India play Belgium in Europe last year and there was nothing (between them). It is almost like India have had a thing with Australia more than anybody else. I coached Australia that won 8-0 in the New Delhi Commonwealth Games. But if you watch that game, it was 0-0 after 20 minutes and very competitive. What we saw in Australia was India scored goals but Australia were scoring too many. Here with a crowd, if India can get a start they will be hard to stop. Sometimes differences are not as great as scores indicate.

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A ₹724 crore boost in union sports budget

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In the year of the Asian Games and qualifications for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the union sports budget saw a significant jump in allocation on Wednesday. The sports ministry has been allocated 3397.32 crore for 2023-24 – an increase of 723.97 crore from the previous fiscal. The budget for the previous financial year was 3062.60 crore (revised: 2673.35cr).

The Asian Games, postponed last year due to Covid, are due to be held in Hangzhou, China from September 23-October 8. India’s elite athletes have also started preparing for various Olympic qualification events.

Also Read | Sai Praneeth, Kiran George in men’s singles second round in Thailand Open

The allocation for National Sports Federations (NSFs) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) have gone up. Assistance to NSFs has been increased to 325 crore from 280 crore in 2022-23.

SAI has been allocated 785.5 crore, an increase from last year’s revised budget of 749.43 crore. It was originally allocated 653 crore in the last financial year. SAI oversees the preparation of national teams, manages national camps, provides infrastructure and other facilities to athletes besides appointing coaches, including foreign experts.

A big chunk of the sports budget will go for government’s flagship programme, Khelo India. It gets 1,000 crore, an increase of 400 crore from the revised allocation of 600 crore set aside for it in the previous budget. Under the scheme, Khelo India Youth Games and Khelo India University Games are organised. It has become the platform for talent identification and nurturing through its various schemes. The budget for Khelo India has steadily risen since its inception in 2018.

A major allocation of 107.84 crore has been made for the National Sports University in Imphal. Set up in 2018, NSU is a first-of-its-kind institution which imparts studies in sports science and medicine, coaching, sports management and technology.

The National Centre of Sports Science and Research, under which financial assistance is given to medical colleges and Universities to develop centres of sports science and research, has been allocated 13 crore.

There has been a 10 crore dip in incentives to athletes, from 55 crore last year. To fight the doping menace, the National Anti Doping Agency has been allocated 21.73 crore. The National Dope Testing Laboratory in Delhi, whose accreditation was restored by the World Anti-Doping Agency in December, 2021, gets 19.50 crore. A National Anti-Doping Bill was passed last year to create a statutory body for regulating anti-doping activities in sports.

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Sai Praneeth, Kiran George in men’s singles second round in Thailand Open

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Indian shuttlers B Sai Praneeth and Kiran George advanced to the second round of the Thailand Open Super 300 badminton tournament with contrasting wins over their respective opponents on Wednesday.

Praneeth beat Mads Christophersen of Denmark 21-13 21-14 in a battle lasting 31 minutes. He faces Hyeok Jin Jeon of South Korea in second round.

George, on the other hand, staved off a tough challenge from Lee Chia Hao of Chinese Taipei before emerging 21-17 19-21 23-21 victorious. He is up against third seed Cheuk Yiu Lee of Hong Kong in the second round.

However, Sameer Verma, Priyanshu Rajawat and Mithun Manjunath lost their first round matches. While Verma suffered 14-21 16-21 defeat against sixth seeded Chinese Shi Feng Li, Rajawat lost to Kwang Hee Heo of South Korea 21-14 19-21 25-27 and Manjunath was beaten 18-21 12-21 by fifth seeded Kenta Nishimoto of Japan.

In women’s singles, Ashmita Chaliha beat compatriot Anupama Upadhyaya 21-16 21-19 to reach the second round where she will face sixth seed Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt of Denmark.

The pair of Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker lost to sixth seeded Sheng Shu and Shu Xian Zhang of China 8-21 10-21 in the women’s doubles.

In mixed doubles, Rohan Kapoor and Sikki Reddy beat Canadian pair of Ty Alexander Lindeman and Josephine Wu 21-11 21-16 to enter the second round. But the pair of B Sumeeth Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa lost to fourth seeded Indonesian pair of Rehan Naufal Kusharjanto and Lisa Ayu Kusumawati 11-21 17-21.

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Djokovic played Australian Open with 3cm tear in hamstring, says Tiley | Tennis News

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Novak Djokovic played with a three-centimetre (1.2 inches) tear in his hamstring during his run to a record-extending 10th Australian Open title, tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday.

The Serbian, who suffered the hamstring injury en route to winning the warm-up title in Adelaide, won the season-opening major after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final for a men’s record 22nd Grand Slam title, matching Rafa Nadal’s haul.

“This guy I did see, he had a three-centimetre tear in his hammy,” Tiley told SEN Sportsday. “Absolutely (I saw the scans), the doctors are going to tell you the truth.

“There was a lot of speculation about whether it was true or not, it’s hard to believe that they can do what they do with those kinds of injuries.

“He’s remarkable, to deal with it extremely professionally.”

Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic said after the final that the world number one battled the injury, which would have forced most players to quit.

“He’s so focused on everything he does, with every single minute of the day,” Tiley added. “That’s what he eats, what he drinks, when he does it, how he does it.

“There’s no breakdown or mental breakdown in anything that he does. He’s been through a lot and to win 10 Australian Opens, I don’t think that’s ever going to be repeated… He’ll hold a significant place in the history of the Australian Open.”

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