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Manpreet Singh: Not the captain but still a leader | Hockey

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With Amit Rohidas on the bench, Manpreet Singh had to change roles and take up the duty of a first rusher, ready to get his legs and knees battered by English drag-flickers. The only problem was England earned five penalty corners (PC) in the span of 90 seconds.

Each time the former India captain ran out of the goal as fast as he could to deny Sam Ward and Nick Bandurak any angle to convert the PCs into goals in Rourkela on Sunday evening, with his legs getting pounded each time. The saves proved crucial as if any of them had gone in, the hosts would have had to play catch-up in a tight game.

Manpreet may not be India captain anymore but the in-built leadership qualities are difficult to let go. As always, the 30-year-old has been a livewire on the pitch in the World Cup, shouting instructions to his colleagues, fulfilling his duty as a playmaker; from creating balls for strikers to acting as a defender when in need.

“It does not matter whether I am captain or not. The situation is just like earlier. My priority is that when my feet touch the turf, I give my 100 percent and take everyone along with me. The duty is still the same. Harmanpreet (Singh) is the captain. He is doing well and deserves it. For me, whenever I hit the ground, I do my best and try to help the players who are not performing by injecting them with confidence so that they perform at their personal best,” said Manpreet.

Manpreet took over as skipper from PR Sreejesh in 2017, leading the team to many laurels. But the Khel Ratna’s biggest accomplishment was guiding the team to a position that no other India skipper had in 41 years – the Olympic podium.

But following a few average performances after Tokyo, drag-flicker Harmanpreet was named captain ahead of the 2022-23 season of Pro League.

“I see it this way – when you’re on the ground you should just perform your role. In hockey, no one individual takes the decisions. At the back the defenders make the call, in front of them midfielders communicate with the strikers, at the back Sreejesh shouts orders. Everyone has their own responsibility,” said the midfielder. “Whether you use your sense of humour or presence of mind, you don’t need a captain’s armband to take decisions. So, there is no change in the outlook. I am still shouting on the field just like I used to.”

Manpreet has come a long way since making his debut at the 2011 Asian Champions Trophy in China. From a quick-learning, fast-paced midfielder to India captain to now a veteran of 316 internationals, his outlook has changed a lot. Manpreet married Malaysian Illi Najwa Saddique in December 2020 and became a father in November 2021.

“For someone like Manpreet who is very experienced and is used to playing no matter whether he is captain or not, when you have a child – he has a beautiful daughter – and everything your perspective on life changes. That’s what you see with Manpreet. His perspective has changed and grown. But he will be there in whichever capacity we need him,” said India chief coach Graham Reid.

It is tough to be away from your one-year-old child but the Olympic bronze medallist has clearly fixed his priorities. “I have always been away from my family since I was 10. My first priority is towards my nation. Then, family,” says Manpreet.

It was the same thought process that made him overcome the biggest setback of his life. Just a few hours before India’s match against Japan in the 2016 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup opener, Manpreet learned that his father had died. An emotional Manpreet played the match but left for India to complete the rituals, missing the next match against Australia, before returning to take the field in the third game against New Zealand – all in the span of four days.

“I regularly FaceTime with my daughter. They will be coming to Bhubaneswar to watch the matches. I know after the tournament I will return to her. I want her to feel proud of her papa that he has done something for the country which is why I want to give my best for the nation. If I do well here then definitely, I can be a good father,” said Manpreet.

The midfielder has played a huge role in helping India maintain a clean slate so far at the World Cup, stepping up whenever the team needed him and feels the team is moving in the right direction.

“The team is doing very well. We missed a couple of chances against Spain but look at our defence – we haven’t conceded a goal against two top teams despite being down to 10 men for 10 minutes in the first game. We’ve defended well, giving our opposition teams very few opportunities. The idea is to not give chances to other teams throughout the tournament,” concluded Manpreet.

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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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