HYDERABAD: The straight game loss of Saina Nehwal against eventual champion Shixian Wang in the All England quarters must have upset her fans but the ace shuttler received firm backing from her coach Pullela Gopichand.
The last of two All England champions from the country, Gopichand said that there is nothing to worry about Saina's game and she knows how to come out of tough situations.
"I am not worried about Saina's performance. She is playing well and we have to be prepared for this sort of setbacks. Shixian looked untouchable during the tournament.
The way she beat Li Xuerui (Olympic champion), Wang Yihan (former world champion) and Saina was simply stunning. The slow conditions at the stadium suited her well," said Gopichand, who was recently lauded by world No.1 Lee Chong Wei as one of the best coaches in the world.
Queried if Saina is disturbed by the early exit, Gopi said, "she is used to these sort of situations. We are quite satisfied with the way she is playing now," Gopi said.
Meanwhile, the battered and bruised Indian squad arrived in Basel for the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold. While many of the top men opted out of the tournament, the field in the women's section is quite strong.
Led by Shixian Wang and Wang Yihan, the women's draw also features world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand. Saina, a two-time champion here in 2011 & 12, is seeded sixth and will face her big test against Wang Yihan in the quarters.
PV Sindhu, who crashed out in the first round of All England Open, is likely to reach the quarters where she will run into the in-form Shixian Wang.
With no top player in the draw, the Indian men have a chance to do well here. Third seed Parupalli Kashyap will begin against Erif Meijis of The Netherlands while fifth seed Kidambi Srikanth will face Henri Hurskainen of Sweden in the first round on Tuesday.
"Saina and Sindhu should make good use of the comfortable draw in the early stages. If conditions suit them they can beat anyone. I am also expecting some good results from the men," Gopi said.
There's a feeling around cricket circles that Chennai Super Kings are the best T20 unit in business. Be it depth in their batting, the number of allrounders in the playing XI or the supreme athleticism of players, MS Dhoni seems to have forged a template for CSK that has helped them reach five of the six IPL finals.
But the captain hasn't been able to recreate the same magic for India in T20s. He led the team to World Cup triumph in 2007, but those were pre-IPL days and international teams were still learning the ropes in the format.
In the next three World Cups, India didn't even make the semifinals and it seemed that Dhoni doesn't have the kind of ammunition that makes CSK such a potent force in T20s. Things are looking a little different this time around and it's not just because there are five CSK players - Dhoni, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohit Sharma - in the squad.
The top-order has the balance of explosive and canny batsmen who can turn the strike around, there's nobody who can be termed a slow-coach on the field and there are a number of all-rounders. Of course, there's no one of the quality of an Albie Morkel or a Dwayne Bravo, but conditions in Bangladesh are going to suit spinners and that's where Yuvraj Singh comes into play.
Going for a price of Rs 14 crores in the IPL auctions shows what the franchises think about him. He is a match-winner with the bat, but his bowling on the slow tracks of Bangladesh will be handy too.
"More than a pace bowling allrounder, somebody like a Yuvraj can be more effective in Bangladesh, provided he is in form. He fits into that all-rounder's slot in the middle-order that's so crucial in T20s," TA Sekar, director of Delhi Daredevils, told TOI.
If Yuvraj bats at No. 5 and plays the role that Bravo does for CSK, the next three who come in to bat are straight from the Super Kings line-up. Dhoni, coming back into the team after an injury-induced break in the Asia Cup, is the best T20 finisher in the subcontinent while Jadeja and Ashwin are two of the most successful spinning all-rounders in IPL.
While Jadeja had lost form and was not there in the last T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka, Ashwin was in a tussle with Harbhajan Singh for the No. 1 spinner's slot. The two have come a long way since and Sekar rightly pointed out that these two are "assets for any T20 team". "Jadeja has been superb of late and T20 suits him to the tee.
He is going to play a crucial role in World T20. Ashwin, on the other hand, is a capable batsman for T20s in the subcontinent," Sekar said. Dhoni also has the option of choosing between an extra allrounder in Stuart Binny, a spinner in Amit Mishra and a specialist pace bowler in the playing XI.
It was a situation that he often faced in CSK and Alblie used to be his option more often than not. Binny is not in the class of Albie and the captain has to weigh his options before closing this slot. Of the four pace bowlers, Mohammad Shami is likely to be the spearhead while Dhoni has to choose between Varun Aaron, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma.
The skipper likes to get four overs from Mohit straight up with the new ball in IPL and it won't be a surprise if he sticks to that in Mirpur. In the top-order, the Indian team management has gone back to Raina after dropping him for Asia Cup.
The left-hander has won CSK many matches batting at No. 3 and if the skipper gives him that slot in the Indian team, Virat Kohli will have the responsibility of controlling the innings at No. 4. "Raina can bowl a couple of overs of spin as well.
All these guys are brilliant fielders too and it looks like a balanced team on paper for T20s, something that CSK had all these years. We will have to see whether they can translate that into a World Cup performance," Sekar said, putting the ball in the players' court.
NEW YORK: Would you ever say yes to a person who asks you out on a date to the gym? Well, it is the latest dating trend in New York, so you should really consider saying yes because you don't want to be left behind.
While one man who took his love interest, now-fiance, to a fitness class told the New York Post that working out together was a great way to make sure that they saw each other more, another said that it's a great way to discover a woman's true personality.
Experts believe that couple's workout is gaining popularity because we live in a fitness-crazed city where being physically fit is a huge turn-on.
Thompson Plyler, a trainer and certified dating and relationship coach, explained that people want to date healthy people who take care of their bodies and push themselves, because it shows that they're responsible, self-aware and can keep up with the fast-paced vibe of the city. And it's easy to see if someone has those qualities when you're next to him or her at a fitness class, he added.
WASHINGTON: About 70 Indian passports have reportedly been stolen from a private company, to which the Indian Consulate in San Francisco has outsourced various visa and passport related services.
The serious breach of security is being investigated by the San Francisco Police Department. Both the Indian Consulate and the local police have informed the State Department and the relevant federal authorities so that these passports are not misused, a media report said.
At least 70 Indian passports were stolen from BLS International's San Francisco Office, sometime during the weekend beginning November 29, an Indian-American publication India West reported.
The San Francisco Police Department began investigating the case on December 2, 2013. According to the investigating officer a BLS employee told the police that the passports, along with cash and checks, were taken from a locked safe.
The Indian Consulate in San Francisco has cancelled the stolen passports. The cancelled passports cannot be used for fraudulent travel, as they are machine-readable and verified through a system that is used throughout the world, the newspaper quoted a consulate official as saying.
A pro-Russian force opened fire in seizing a Ukrainian military base in Crimea on Monday and NATO announced reconnaissance flights along its eastern frontiers as confrontation around the Black Sea peninsula showed no sign of easing.
Ukrainian activists trying to cross into Crimea to show solidarity with opponents of last week's Russian military takeover there said they were halted by men in uniforms of the now outlawed riot police. One of these fired at close range, hitting a man in the chest, apparently with rubber bullets.
With diplomacy at a standstill, Russia said the United States had spurned an invitation to hold new talks on resolving the crisis, the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War - though Washington later said a meeting of foreign ministers was possible this week, if Moscow shows it is ready to "engage".
The US-led NATO defence alliance said AWACS early warning aircraft, once designed to counter feared Soviet nuclear missile strikes, will start reconnaissance flights on Tuesday over Poland and Romania to monitor the situation in Ukraine, flying from bases in Germany and Britain.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told Germany's Bild newspaper, however, that Western powers were not considering military action and wanted a diplomatic solution. European Union governments are considering sanctions against Russia.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who said he would address the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, blamed the crisis on Russia and accused Moscow of undermining the global security system by taking control of Crimea.
Ukraine's new justice authorities issued warrants for the arrest of Crimea's pro-Russia leaders on Monday, six days before a referendum they have called to join the region to Russia.
Russian forces have in little more than a week taken over military installations across Crimea, home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and Russian territory until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in 1954.
Pro-Russian separatists have taken control of the regional parliament, declared Crimea part of the Russian Federation and announced the referendum for Sunday to confirm this.
President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is acting to protect the rights of ethnic Russians, who make up a majority of Crimea's population, after Ukraine's president Viktor Yanukovich was ousted last month in what Russia calls a coup.
On Monday, a Ukrainian defence official said a Russian-led military force of about a dozen men fired in the air as they took control of a Ukrainian naval base near the town of Bakhchisaray, though no one was hurt.
The force was accompanied by the base's Ukrainian commander. He persuaded a number of his men to join the Russian forces while allowing others who refused to leave, the Ukrainian official, Vladislav Seleznyov wrote on Facebook. The Russian force later drove off with nine Ukrainian vehicles.
Yarik Alexandrov, one of the Ukrainian naval personnel who refused to pledge allegiance to Moscow, told Reuters near the base that he and his comrades at first refused to surrender: "Then they started shooting round our feet and we surrendered," he said. "What could we do? We had no weapons."
Similar small confrontations have taken place at other Ukrainian bases around Crimea, though shooting has been rare and there has so far been no bloodshed. Russia denies its troops are involved - a stance ridiculed in Kiev and the West.
In a sign of the peninsula's growing isolation from the Ukrainian mainland, armed men prevented a convoy of cars from a Ukrainian activist group crossing into Crimea.
The group was part of the Maidan movement behind the protests which forced Yanukovich to flee to Russia. Ukrainian television showed men in the uniform of the Berkut riot police, banned by the new authorities for its role in shooting dozens of demonstrators in Kiev last month, blocking the road south.
One was shown firing twice, hitting a man in the chest. His injuries appeared minor, suggesting the use of rubber bullets.
In other armed action, Russian forces took over a military hospital and a missile unit. Reuters correspondents also saw a big Russian convoy on the move just outside the port city of Sevastopol near a Ukrainian air defence base.
It comprised more than 100 vehicles, including around 20 armoured personnel carriers, plus mobile artillery.
Chances of talks spurned
Putin says Russia is not controlling events in Crimea but denials of Russian involvement are rejected by the United States as the two former Cold War enemies wage a geopolitical battle over the future of Crimea and Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Putin that Russia's position on Ukraine remained at odds with the West, but US Secretary of State John Kerry had declined an invitation to visit Russia on Monday for further talks.
"It is all being formulated as if there was a conflict between Russia and Ukraine ... and our partners suggested using the situation created by a coup as a starting point," Lavrov told Putin during talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
He did not say why Kerry had postponed the talks.
The State Department said Kerry told Lavrov on Saturday that Washington wanted Moscow to cease its drive to annex Crimea and end "provocative steps". In a statement, it added: "Kerry made clear to Foreign Minister Lavrov that he would welcome further discussions focused on how to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine if and when we see concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on these proposals."
In Kiev, Yatseniuk said he would address the United Nations Security Council during a debate on Ukraine. He is also due to hold talks with the US government which will show Washington's support of the new Ukrainian leadership.
"Russia's policy is aimed at undermining the basis of the global security system and revising the outcome of World War Two," Interfax quoted Yatseniuk as telling reporters.
Western powers have rallied behind Ukraine's new leaders and on Monday the World Bank said it planned to provide up to $3 billion this year to see Kiev through an economic crisis.
Ukraine's crisis was triggered in November by Yanukovich's refusal, under Russian pressure, to sign deals on closer political and trade ties with the European Union.
Although three months of protests against Yanukovich were mostly peaceful, at least 80 demonstrators were killed in clashes after police used force against them, some by sniper fire.
Yanukovich fled Ukraine before a peace deal with the opposition was implemented, and a new national unity government was installed. He is wanted for mass murder in Ukraine and is being sheltered by Russia.
West does not recognise referendum
Western countries have denounced the Russian intervention in Crimea and say the borders of Ukraine, a country of 46 million, should remain unchanged. They have said they will not accept the outcome of Sunday's vote.
"The United States is not prepared to recognise any result of the so-called referendum taking place in six days' time," US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said in Kiev. "We are committed to Crimea's status as part of Ukraine. The crisis needs to be solved diplomatically, not militarily."
In the latest military movements, in Sevastopol, where Russia has its Black Sea Fleet base, Russian forces disarmed servicemen at a Ukrainian army missile base, Seleznyov said.
He told Fifth Channel television that about 200 soldiers aboard 14 trucks moved on the building at about 1.30 a.m and threatened to storm it if the Ukrainian soldiers failed to give up their weapons.
In the eastern city of Luhansk, Ukraine's security services said they were investigating the takeover on Sunday of the main administrative building. The region's top official was held captive in a room where he was made to write a letter saying he had resigned but later said he was still performing his duties.