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JioCinema sets new record with 2.57 cr viewers during IPL 2023 Qualifier 2

The IPL 2023 official digital streaming partner JioCinema has set a new World Record with 2.57 cr concurrent viewers witnessing the sensational century by Shubhman Gill in the first innings of Qualifier 2 of the IPL 2023 between Gujarat Titans and Mumbai Indians.

Gill’s stunning knock and Gujarat skipper Hardik Pandya’s late cameo saw the platform going past the World Record equalled by JioCinema in the Qualifier 1 between Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans on Tuesday night and first set during India vs New Zealand Semi-Final in the ICC 2019 World Cup.

Earlier on April 17, 2.4 cr viewers came together to watch MS Dhoni’s CSK defend against a high-octane run chase from Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) with bated breath at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and that record was set after bettering the one set on April 12 of a peak concurrency touching 2.2 cr, again when Dhoni almost pulled off another heist against Rajasthan Royals.

“We are thrilled to announce that JioCinema has set a ground-breaking milestone by breaking the world record of concurrent viewers on digital,” said Viacom18 Sports CEO Anil Jayaraj.

“It is a testament to our constant endeavour of offering an unparalleled experience of TATA IPL to fans and viewers across every corner of the country. The achievement reinforces our commitment to deliver world-class sports action, no matter the scale, and motivates us to constantly push the boundaries of live sports streaming,” he added.

In addition to edge-of-the-seat match action, JioCinema’s repeat record-rumble comes on the back of several fan-centric offerings such as free streaming across all network subscribers, 4K streaming, 12-language commentary and free-to-play contest Jeeto Dhan Dhana Dhan with exciting prizes for every match including a car.

JioCinema continues to set global benchmarks in the world of digital sports viewing as it clocked over 1500 cr video views in the first seven weeks of the IPL 2023. Viewers were glued to the exciting action on JioCinema as the average time spent per viewer per match touched 60 minutes. IPL 2023 on Connected TV has already reached twice the number of viewers than that on HD TV in the first five weeks.

Pope gears up to lead England in Tests if Stokes misses out due to fitness

Right-handed England batter Ollie Pope has reckoned that he is ready to lead the Three Lions in Tests in the upcoming home summer if regular skipper Ben Stokes misses out on any of their six matches due to long-standing fitness issues.

Notably, star all-rounder Stokes had a long-standing left knee injury which had emerged during the series in New Zealand in February following which he had limited his ability to use his right-arm pace bowling. Stokes also suffered niggles while being a part of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in IPL 2023, due to which he could feature in just two matches.

“Everyone wants to see Stokesy play all six Tests so fingers crossed his body is all good and he can do that. But if it is the case (that I captain) then I feel (ready). It is a big step up from doing it in warm-up games but I have had a bit of experience with it. I have been watching Stokesy fairly closely with how he goes about his captaincy. There is only one Ben Stokes. I wouldn’t try to be him but if called upon I feel confident I can relay the same messages to the guys,” Pope was quoted as saying by Sky Sports News.

“The team has been together for a long time and guys know what their roles are in the team so it’s about relaying the messages and keeping the positive attitude,” he added.

Pope has been recently appointed as Stokes’ deputy ahead of England’s Test summer, which will begin with a one-off match against Ireland at Lord’s on June 1, followed by a highly-anticipated five-match Ashes series from June 16 at Edgbaston.

“It’s a big honour. I was excited to find out and it is a nice thing to have, gives you that extra bit of confidence that you are being backed by management and team-mates. It doesn’t really change anything for me. I’ve tried to help out Stokesy wherever I can, not that he needs it, if I have got any ideas and we obviously have some great guys to call upon with amazing experience, so those guys will be great to lean on,” he further added.

Botably, the Three Lions have won 10 of 12 Tests under Stokes’ captaincy and embraced an aggressive brand of cricket, with Pope insisting the success from last year can continue against Australia.

“An Ashes series is bigger than any series we play, there is no hiding behind that. I’d like to think that in England we are favourites. As long as we can keep relaying those positive messages to the group that is the main thing for us. I have 100 per cent confidence we can continue that run of form,” he said.

Significantly, hosts England will be eyeimg to regain the Ashes against for the first time since 2015.

After the series opener af Edgbaston from June 16-20, the rest of the affairs will be held at the Lord’s (June 28-July 2), Headingley (July 6-10), Old Trafford (July 19-23) and The Oval (July 27-31).

Champions of ICC World Test Championship to take home a purse of $1.6 million

India and Australia are all set to face off in the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) Final 2023 and with just few days left for the mega event, the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Friday announced that the winner of the competition will take home a winners’ prize fund $1.6 million (approx 13.21 crore).

The ICC on Friday said that the huge prize money will be the major incentive for both teams other than the crowning glory in the longest format of the game. As per the governing body, the losing finalists will pocket $800,000 (Rs 6.50 crore).

The much-awaited decider will be held at The Oval, London between June 7 and 11 June.

In the inaugural WTC, the Kane Williamson-led New Zealand side was rewarded with $1.6 million besides the glittering Mace in Southampton two years ago, thanks to an eight-wicket victory over India in the six-day final.

Meanwhile, all the nine participants of the ICC World Test Championship 2021-23 will receive a share in the $3.8 million purse. Third placed South Africa have earned $450,000 while England, who made a late resurgence in the two-year cycle with an aggressive playing style, ended up fourth on the table to receive a reward of $350,000.

Sri Lanka, who were in the running for a place in the final before their series defeat in New Zealand, dropped down to the fifth spot and will settle with a prize money share of $200,000.

Significantly, sixth-placed New Zealand, seventh-placed Pakistan, eighth-placed West Indies and ninth-placed Bangladesh will be given $100,000 each.

Sony Sports Network to broadcast Roland Garros 2023

Leading Indian sports broadcaster — Sony Sports Network has prepared to showcase the much-anticipated second Grand Slam of the year; LIVE across its channels starting from 28th May 2023.

Indian tennis fans will look forward to watching the nail-biting competition between top-seeded players in English on Sony Sports Ten 5, Sony Sports Ten 2, in Hindi on Sony Sports Ten 3, and in Tamil & Telugu on Sony Sports Ten 4.

Recently, the network had announced the onboarding of Sania Mirza as the ‘Tennis Ambassador for Sony Sports Network’. Starting with the highly competitive Roland Garros 2023, Sania will share her in-depth knowledge with Indian fans. The tennis legend also featured in a recently launched campaign, “Home of Tennis”. The campaign positions the three Grand Slams, Sania Mirza and Sony Sports Network, as a match made in heaven.

Sony Sports Network will provide fans with a holistic programming initiative which brings the best action from the clay courts of Roland Garros.

The live studio show, EXTRAAA SERVE, will provide in-depth insights, and will be hosted by Suhail Chandhok and Atish Thukral. While Former tennis players like Sania Mirza, Somdev Devvarman, Purav Raja, and Gaurav Natekar will share their expert views from the studio, Adriano Del Monte will be the on-ground reporter bringing viewers closer to action.

The Hindi commentary on Sony Sports Ten 3 channels will be provided by Manish Batavia, Saarthak Lal and Gaurav Natekar. The Tamil commentary will be provided by Arun Venugopal, Srinivasan Seshadri and Vimalraj Jayachandran while Telugu commentators will be Sandeep Kumar Boddapati, Sudheer Mahavadi and Sathwika Sama.

Udanta Singh and Bengaluru FC part ways after nine years

Indian Super League (ISL) side Bengaluru FC has finally confirmed the departure of winger Udanta Singh, who leaves the club after nine years.

Udanta featured for the club for six ISL seasons since the 2017-18 campaign, making 108 appearances while netting 11 goals and 15 assists during his time with the Blues.

“Struggling for words, so we’re keeping this simple. Thank you for the memories, Flash. You will be missed!,” said Bengaluru FC in a tweet.

Considered as one of the fastest players in India, Udanta is a product of the prestigious Tata Football Academy (TFA) and had signed for Bengaluru FC in 2014, clinching several trophies during his time with the Blues including the ISL, I-League, Federation Cup, Durand Cup and the Super Cup title.

Udanta, who hails from Manipur, was also a crucial part of the Blues that had reached the AFC Cup final in 2016.

Notably, he had a breakthrough ISL season during the 2017-18 campaign, playing an important role in the Blue’s run to the summit clash and had contributed with a goal and seven assists during that campaign, which was the joint-highest assist tally that season.

He also netted five goals and three assists the following season, taking his game up a notch as Bengaluru FC lifted the ISL trophy.

Udanta however, failed to maintain consistency since then as hed managed to produce just five goals in the last four Hero ISL seasons, dropping down the pecking order.

Jason Roy terminates incremental contract with ECB

In order to play in the Major League Cricket (MLC), the newly announced T20 franchise league in the United States of America, Englanf opener Jason Roy has announced to terminate his England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) incremental contract.

The MLC is scheduled to be held from July 13-30 at Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas and has significant backing from both the India and Australia cricket boards. Notably, four of the six franchises have investors who also own IPL teams, while Cricket Victoria and Cricket New South Wales have stakes in the other two.

“England Men’s white-ball batter Jason Roy has informed the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) that he wishes to take up an agreement with Major League Cricket in the USA later this summer,” the ECB said in a statement on Thursday.

“The ECB have agreed for him to play in the competition on the proviso that he gives up the remainder of his ECB incremental contract, which both parties have agreed to,” it added.

On the other hand, Roy put out a statement on social media saying that he never will ‘walk away from England’ despite not having central contract.

“Following a bit of unwanted speculation over the last 24 hours, I wanted to clarify that I am not and never will ‘walk away from England’. Representing my country continues to be my proudest moment as a professional cricketer. I hope to play for England for many more years, that remains my priority,” the England opener said.

“I’ve had clear and supportive conversations with the ECB about participating in Major League Cricket. The ECB were happy with me to play in the competition as long as they didn’t have to pay me for the remainder of the contractual year. As a single format player with no central contract I wanted to take the opportunity to play this competition as there are currently no scheduling conflicts with England. It benefits me as an England player to play as much competitive cricket as possible,” he added.

Roy, 32, also said that his priority is England cricket, especially with a World Cup set to be played this year.

The ECB too in its statement expounded that belief.

“The ECB wish to clarify that this decision will not affect Jason’s selection for England teams going forward. We have absolute confidence and faith that Jason is committed to England cricket,” it said.

After this development, Roy has now become the first major England player to have taken the route towards franchise cricket, and to be contracted by private entities.

He was earlier acquired in the Indian Premier League (IPL) by the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), who also own franchise in the MLC.

Jason Roy, other England players likely to terminate ECB incremental contract to play in MLC

In a bid to play in the inaugural season of Major League Cricket (MLC) in the United States of America (USA), several England players, including opener Jason Roy, are reportedly looking to terminate their incremental contracts with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

According to an ESPNCricinfo report, Roy, who holds an incremental deal with the ECB, is planning to terminate his contract in order to play in the league.

Not only Roy but his England and Surrey team-mate Reece Topley is also considering the same approach however, it all depends on his fitness status after undergoing shoulder surgery last month.

“Surrey are expecting Roy to play MLC — most likely for LA Knight Riders — between the end of their Blast season and the start of the Hundred, and that he would have to agree to a release from his incremental contract to do so. If Surrey reach Finals Day, Roy will be available for them and miss the start of MLC,” the report added.

Apart from the duo, Harry Brook, Dawid Malan, Matthew Potts and David Willey also hold ECB incremental deals in the 2022/23 cycle worth around 66,000 pound per year and effectively act as a top-up to county salaries.

“Roy played for Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL 2023 and is understood to have held informal discussions with the franchise about the possibility of a contract to play for their teams in other leagues, including MLC. His representative declined to comment,” added the report.

Coming to Topley, who was forced to leave IPL 2023 due to shoulder injury, signing up with the MLC depends on his rehabilitation.

Recently in a live-stream for Surrey, the pacer said: “If you’d have asked me when I was young, I’d have said I’d love to play 100 Tests for England.”

“Now, if you asked me, (I’d say) I’d love to go to as many IPLs as I can. I don’t think the stigma around saying you want to play and be successful in white-ball cricket is that bad,” he added.

Notably, the inaugural season of the MLC is set to take place between July 13-30 at Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas and four of the total six franchises have organisations who own IPL teams, while Cricket Victoria and Cricket New South Wales from Australia have stakes in the other two teams.

The upcoming tournament has a meagre clash with the semi-finals and finals of England’s T20 Blast, slated to be held on July 15, while there are two rounds of County Championship fixtures between Finals Day and the start of the Hundred on August 1.

However, the report said that there are concerns within English cricket that MLC is likely to expand in future and could also clash directly with the Hundred.

“As a result, the ECB will not give No-Objection Certificates (NOCs) that would enable contracted players to feature in MLC. And while players are unlikely to negotiate a release from full white-ball contracts to play in the US, such a move would make financial sense for those on incremental deals,” it said.

Many star T20 players like Marcus Stoinis, Quinton de Kock, Wanindu Hasaranga, Anrich Nortje and Glenn Phillips have already been unveiled as overseas signings for the first edition of the tournament.

James Anderson fit for England’s Ashes opener

Veteran England pacer James Anderson has declared himself fit for the first Ashes Test against Australia, scheduled to be held at the Edgbaston on June 16, after recovering from a groin injury.

Anderson had earlier, sustained the groin injury while playing a County Championship game for his club Lancashire earlier in May this year.

“Yes definitely. It feels really good and as if it has reacted to treatment. I have no issues running and bowling again and just keeping my fingers crossed I can carry on going as I have been and will be ready for the Ashes,” Anderson was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

Notably, Anderson is England’s leading wicket-taker in the longest format of the game with 685 scalps in 179 matches and is very much crucial for the hosts, who will be missing the services of pacer Jofra Archer for their entire home summer.

Intrestingly, it will also be Anderson’s tenth Ashes series for England.

However, Anderson is unlikely to feature in England’s one-off Test against Ireland, starting from June 1 at Lord’s, especially after uncapped seamer Josh Tongue being included in the squad.

“It (groin injury) is good. It is not too serious. I have been back bowling and running and (am) confident I will be fit and firing soon. The idea is to try and step it up here at Lancashire over the next couple of days and then meet up with England on Sunday and see where I get to. I am in the squad for the Ireland Test but we have to make a call on that nearer to the time,” he added.

Significantly, the Three Lions England will be aiming to regain the Ashes against Australia for the first time since 2015.

After the opening Test in Edgbaston from June 16-20, the remaining games will be held at Lord’s, Headingley, Old Trafford and The Oval.

Call on future course of Asia Cup 2023 to be taken on sidelines of IPL final: Jay Shah

BCCI secretary Jay Shah on Thursday said that decision on the future course of Asia Cup 2023 will be taken on the sidelines of the IPL final, scheduled to be held on May 28, and added that the summit clash will be attended by heads of cricket boards from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

“The respective presidents of the Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka Cricket Boards will grace the IPL 2023 final to be held on May 28 at the Narendra Modi Stadium. We will hold discussions with them for outlining the future course of action concerning Asia Cup 2023,” BCCI secretary Shah, who also serves as the President of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC), said.

Notably, several reports in the recent past have claimed that the 2023 Asia Cup could be held in a hybrid model of staging matches, which has also been proposed by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi.

Pakistan is the host of the 2023 edition of the showpiece tournament however, India has clearly stated that their players won’t be travelling to the neighbouring country due to the political tensions between them.

As of now, both India and Pakistan have been grouped together alongside Nepal in the six-team Asia Cup, which will be played in the 50-over format in preparation for the ODI World Cup in October-November.

Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan feature in the other group and the top two teams from each group advance to the Super Four stage from there, the top two teams play in the final.

Gujarat have a very balanced side due to match winners: Finch

Mumbai Indians’ charismatic skipper Rohit Sharma has recieved plaudits for the way he lead his team in TATA IPL 2023 because no one really counted the five-time champions as favourites in the competition after the shaky start.

Former India cricketer Irfan Pathan hailed Rohit for marshalling his troops exceptionally well despite missing some of the key players.

Speaking on Star Sports’ Cricket Live, Irfan Pathan said: “Rohit Sharma has delivered once again for Mumbai Indians. He was faced with a crisis at the start of the competition when key pacer Jasprit Bumrah was out. Jofra Archer struggled with his form and fitness but this captain marshalled his troops well. He first guided MI to the eliminator and then took his team to the qualifiers with his astute captaincy.”

The stage is set for the much awaited Qualifier 2 in the TATA IPL 2023 after Mumbai Indians booked the seat with their comprehensive win over Lucknow Super Giants in Eliminator.

The five-time TATA IPL champions will lock horns with the defending champions in the penultimate match of this season. Both teams who are lined up with potential match-winners will be raring to win and set up the summit clash with Chennai Super Kings on Sunday (May 26).

Former India cricketer Harbhajan Singh claimed Mumbai Indians are such a force in this tournament because of a captain like Rohit, who is very approachable as a skipper.

Speaking on Star Sports’ Cricket Live, Harbhajan Singh said: “Rohit Sharma is a very chilled-out captain. He is a very approachable captain even for the youngsters. He never carries that ego and youngsters can reach out to him anytime. He loves spending time with uncapped players. He’s someone who hasn’t taken success to his head, he’s very humble and shows a lot of respect to the senior players. This humility makes Rohit a great player.”

Gujarat Titans lost to Chennai Super Kings in the first Qualifier but they will be arriving at their strong hold in Ahmedabad for the second Qualifier.

Former India cricketer Harbhajan Singh believes the presence senior India pacer Mohammed Shami makes GT a tough opponents for even a team like MI.

Speaking on Star Sports’ Cricket Live, Harbhajan Singh said: “Mohd Shami is a bowler every team looks to have. He’s a good new-ball bowler. He nails quick yorkers in the death overs. He has a brilliant seam position and becomes an unplayable bowler when there’s swing.”

Harbhajan Singh also hailed star Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan for his all-round performance in the TATA IPL 2023.

Speaking on Star Sports’ Cricket Live, Harbhajan Singh said: “Rashid Khan is a player from a different league. He’s picking up wickets in heaps, he’s scoring runs, he’s a gun fielder, and he lead GT whenever captain Hardik wasn’t available. He’s done everything and excelled. GT are exceptionally lucky to have a player like Rashid in their ranks.”

Former Australia cricketer Aaron Finch also lauded ‘world class’ bowler Rashid Khan and captain Hardik Pandya for utilising his resources beautifully.

Speaking on Stat Sports’ Cricket Live, Aaron Finch said: “GT are a strong team to beat because they have a world-class bowler in Rashid Khan. They have a good captain in Hardik Pandya, who’s shown a lot of maturity. Thirdly, their fast bowling attack is also balanced.”