Weekly digest (Jan 13-19): Reds extend lead, Sania makes memorable comeback, Indian sport celebrated at Sportstar Aces Awards

A round-up of all that happened in the world of sport during the last week.

From memorable comebacks and extending dominance to new champions and winds of change, here's a wrap of the biggest sports stories from the week gone by.

SPORTSTAR ACES AWARDS

Rohit Sharma and Smriti Mandana walked away with top honours in cricket while Manpreet Singh and Deep Grace Ekka ensured Indian hockey dominated the team sports awards in the second edition of the annual Sportstar Aces Awards.

The Indian Test cricket team was adjudged best team of the year. Indian shooters won big with Apurvi Chandela and Mehuli Ghosh taking home awards.

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Leander Paes, who is all set to play his final season, and 23-time World champion Pankaj Advani were also felicitated.

For the full list of winners from the second edition of the annual Sportstar Aces Awards, click here.
 

CRICKET

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The Indian ODI team after winnng the three-match series against Australia 2-1.   -  SAMPATHKUMAR G P

Ind vs Aus: After losing the first ODI against Australia by a whopping 10 wickets, Team India did well to register emphatic victories in the other two games to take the series 2-1. (REPORT)

U-19 World Cup: India, led by Priyam Garg, secured a 90-run win over Sri Lanka in an opening group league encounter of the ICC U-19 World Cup here on Sunday. The Boys in Blue were aided by nifty half centuries from Yashasvi Jaiswal, vice-captain Dhruv Jurel and Garg. All-rounder Siddhesh Veer starred with bat and ball. Details.

BCCI Central contracts:
MS Dhoni, who has not appeared for club or country in more than six months since New Zealand beat India in the World Cup semifinal, has been left out of the BCCI's annual retainers' list. Veteran cricketer Mithali Raj has been demoted to Grade B from A in the central contracts while Radha Yadav and Taniya Bhatia have been elevated to the middle bracket.

IPL News: Central contract or otherwise, MS Dhoni will be retained by Chennai Super Kings n the 2021 IPL auction whether he plays for India again or not, says former BCCI president N Sinivasan.

BCCI News:
The Board has invited applications for the position of national selectors across categories. As earlier reported by Sportstar, it has decided to overhaul the entire five-member women's selection panel — whose term got over last year.

Player milestones: Ben Stokes surpassed 4,000 Test runs on Friday with his century in the third Test against South Africa becoming just the second England player to reach that landmark and take 100 wickets in the longest format. Closer home, Rohit Sharma became the fastest batsman to score 7000 ODI runs as opener, leaving behind Hashim Amla and Sachin Tendulkar.

Obituary: The Indian cricketing fraternity mourned the loss of former Indian all-rounder Bapu Nadkarni and former batsman and National selector Man Mohan Sood.

 

FOOTBALL

Club news

Barcelona announced the departure of Ernesto Valverde, appointing Quique Setien in charge.

Meanwhile, Xavi - who was touted to take over after Valverde - won his second trophy as a coach after leading Al Sadd to a 4-0 success over Al Duhail in the Qatar Cup final, days after turning down the Barca job.

Speaking of Barcelona, Quique Setien's first LaLiga Clasico as Barcelona boss has been handed a Sunday evening slot on March 1. Barca's trip to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium could be key to deciding the LaLiga title race.

Iran accused Asian football's governing body of bias for a mooted ban on it hosting club matches, after a spate of security incidents including the downing of an airliner. The row comes as tensions soar between the West and Iran following the killing of top commander Qasem Soleimani in a US airstrike in Baghdad on January 3.

Borussia Dortmund's new signing has come good. Erling Haaland scored a sensational hat-trick to help his team come from two goals down and beat Augsburg 5-3.

Liverpool faced arch rival Manchester United at Anfield, coming away with a comfortable 2-0 win, extending its lead over second-placed City to 16 points.

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Mo Salah scored his first goal against Manchester United, helping Liverpool register a 2-0 win against the former at Anfield.   -  Reuters

 

Indian Football

I-League club Mohun Bagan announced its merger with two-time Indian Super League (ISL) champion ATK on Thursday. The merged club will come into existence from June 1, 2020 and will compete in the 2020-21 Indian Super League season and the other competitions organised by the All India Football Federation.

Set to join the Indian Super League next season, Mohun Bagan prevailed 2-1 against arch-rival East Bengal in the penultimate Kolkata Derby on Sunday.

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Baba Diawara scored his maiden Mohun Bagan goal against East Bengal.   -  Twitter/I-League

The third edition of the Super Cup will not take place this season. The scheduling issues of the Indian national team has led to the decision of the scrapping of the season-ending tournament for the current season, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) confirmed.
 

HOCKEY

The FIH Pro League is here and India managed a thrilling victory over the Netherlands not once, but twice this weekend, with a 5-2 win in the first leg and a 3-1 win in shootout in the second.

Beyond the turf, Hockey India has also come forward with a donation towards rescue and rehabilitation efforts in Australia after bushfires have ravaged large parts of the country.

 

TENNIS

In a dream start to her second innings after a two-year break, Sania Mirza lifted the WTA Hobart International trophy with partner Nadiia Kichenok after edging out Shaui Peng and Shuai Zhang in the final, here on Saturday.

Having started the year with a gap 930 points separating him and Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic has managed to slash the margin a little after helping Serbia secure the ATP Cup, with a win over Nadal no less. Djokovic won all eight of his matches last week and beat his rival 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) in the final to close the gap between the world's top two players to just 510 points.

As the Australian Open draws close, a Djokovic vs Federer clash and Coco Gauff vs Venus tie seem likely. But we have the first round of matches before and here are 10 clashes we are going to watch out for. India has a stake here with Prajnesh Gunneswaran qualifying for the main draw of  tournament as a 'Lucky Loser' on Saturday, after a few players pulled out of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Robert Farah, the world's number one ranked male doubles player, tested positive for a banned substance in October. He won Wimbledon and US Open titles alongside compatriot Juan Sebastian Cabal in 2019. Farah had already pulled out of the Australian Open though, citing personal reasons. Chile's Nicholas Jarry, world number 78, has also been provisionally suspended by the WADA after testing positive at the Davis Cup.



BADMINTON

Hours after the Malaysian Masters final which Kento Momota won, the van carrying him and four others met with an accident which left their driver dead. The World number one faces sitting out for two months after suffering multiple bruises.

Hometown hero Anthony Sinisuka Ginting snatched the men’s Indonesia Masters title on Sunday in a dramatic comeback over defending champion Anders Antonsen, while Spain’s Carolina Marin lost a nail-biting final to Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon. PV Sindhu crashed out in the quarterfinal while Saina Nehwal, B Sai Praneeth, Kidambi Srikanth and Sourabh Verma crashed out of the tournament in the second round.

Season five of the Premier Badminton League is upon us and despite some high-profile absentees, the league hopes to make a splash.


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Conor McGregor beat Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds to complete an epic comeback to UFC in Las Vegas on Sunday.   -  Getty Images

 

OTHER SPORTS: in short

MMA: Conor McGregor wasted little time against Donald Cerrone on Saturday as he made a stunning return to the octagon at UFC 246, with a knockout win in 40 seconds.

WRESTLING:
Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia clinched gold in the Rome Ranking Series, their first golds of 2020.

CHESS: Magnus Carlsen set a world record of 111 unbeaten classical games in a game at the Tata Steel Masters in Netherlands.

MUMBAI MARATHON: Ethiopia's elite marathoner Derara Hurisa seized control of the Tata Mumbai Marathon to finish in a record tome of two hours, eight minutes and nine seconds. The previous course record was of 2:08:35, set by Gideon Kipketer in 2016. Sudha Singh ran alone to a hat-trick of wins among the Indian elite women's marathon runners.