Modi speaks with Aus PM; initiatives for equitable access to vaccines, medicines discussed

New Delhi, May 7  Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on Friday as the two leaders agreed on the importance of ensuring equitable access to vaccines and medicines, and discussed possible initiatives for it.

Modi and Morrison also reiterated the importance of working together for a rules-based international order and a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.

During his telephonic conversation with Morrison, the prime minister conveyed his appreciation for the prompt and generous support extended by the government and the people of Australia for India's fight against the second wave of COVID-19, according to a Prime Minister's Office (PMO) statement.

The two leaders agreed on the need to ensure an affordable and equitable access to vaccines and medicines for containing COVID-19 globally, it said.

"Spoke with my friend @ScottMorrisonMP to thank him for Australia's solidarity and support for India's fight against the pandemic," Modi tweeted after speaking with the Australian prime minister.

"We agreed on the importance of ensuring affordable and equitable access to vaccines and medicines, and discussed possible initiatives in this regard," he said.

During the call, the prime minister sought Australia's support for the initiative taken at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa to seek a temporary waiver under TRIPS in this context, according to the PMO.

In October 2020, India and South Africa submitted a proposal suggesting a waiver for all WTO members on the implementation of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19.

The agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS came into effect in January 1995. It is a multilateral agreement on intellectual property (IP) rights such as copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets.

In their telephonic conversation, Modi and Morrison also took note of the progress made in the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership since the virtual summit held on June 4, 2020 and discussed ways to further strengthen cooperation and foster people-to-people ties.

"The leaders also discussed regional issues and reiterated the importance of working together for a rules-based international order and a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region," the statement said.

Interested in captaining Australia again: Steve Smith

Sydney, Mar 30  Steve Smith says he is interested in becoming Australia captain once again if the opportunity comes, asserting that he has learnt to live with the damage caused to his career and reputation by the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.

The 31-year-old Smith served a one-year ban from playing and was disqualified from leading Australia for two years because of his role in the incident in which Australians were caught using sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball against South Africa.

"I've certainly had a lot of time to think about it and I guess now I've got to a point where if the opportunity did come up again I would be keen," Smith told 'News Corp'.

The ball-tampering scandal led to a review of the team's win-at-all-cost approach to the game. Smith returned to help Australia win the Ashes in 2019 after his ban ended but has resolutely avoided the subject of captaincy.

"If it was what Cricket Australia wanted and it was what was best for the team at the time, it's certainly something I would be interested in now, that's for sure," he added.

Smith acknowledged that the scandal will forever be attached to his name and he will not let that get in the way of assuming leadership again.

"I'm always going to have to live with Cape Town regardless of whether I lead again or not. It's always there," he said.

"I've been through all that now. Time keeps moving forward, and I've learnt so much the last few years about myself and grown as a human being.

"I feel as though I'd be in a better place if the opportunity did come up. If it doesn't, that's fine as well and I'd support whoever is in charge the same way I've supported (Test captain) Tim (Paine) and Finchy (ODI captain Aaron Finch)."

Paine has been under fire ever since Australia lost a high-stakes Test series to an injury-plagued India earlier this year. Finch, on the other hand, has turned 34.

Australian Open To Continue Despite Five-Day Lockdown

Melbourne [Australia], February 12 :The Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne will continue but without fans, despite a five-day lockdown ordered Friday in its host city to control an outbreak of the UK coronavirus strain, officials said.

Premier Daniel Andrews of Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, said the tennis venue would be considered a "workplace" that can continue to function with limited staff.

The year's first Grand Slam opened on Monday with limited crowds due to existing virus restrictions, after players all underwent mandatory quarantine.

Melbourne's five million residents were ordered to stay at home for five days from midnight after a cluster of Covid cases leaked from a quarantine hotel at the city's airport.

Play was already under way on day five of the event Friday when the announcement was made, with Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokvic all due on court.

Input: timesnow

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Big week of Australian Open, tune-up tournaments set to start

Melbourne, Jan 30  The last group of quarantined players in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open and a week of tune-up tournaments was set to leave their hotels at midnight Saturday night, ending a mammoth two-week effort to reduce the chance of any international arrivals bringing the coronavirus Down Under.

More than 1,000 players and officials went into a two-week quarantine from January 14 when the first of 17 flights chartered by Tennis Australia landed in Melbourne and Adelaide.

Three of those charters contained players or entourages with COVID-19, meaning that 72 players had to go into hard quarantine with no opportunity to practice. Other players not in hard quarantine were allowed out of their rooms for up to five hours a day to train.

Melbourne Park, site of the Australian Open, was busy Saturday with all but 22 players out of hotel quarantine and preparing for the tune-up tournaments which get under way on Sunday. Japan's Kei Nishikori and Benoit Paire of France were among those who could exit their hotels at 11.59 pm on Saturday.

Two WTA tournaments kick off official proceedings on Sunday, and Australia's world no 1 Ash Barty has a first-round bye in one of them. Ajla Tomljanovic, ranked no 69, takes on Alize Cornet of France in the first round to determine who will play 2019 Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the second.

There is one other WTA tournament scheduled only for those players who were in hard lockdown.

As well, the ATP Cup team event begins Tuesday and there are two other ATP men's tournaments scheduled in Melbourne ahead of the February 8-21 Australian Open.

The first Grand Slam tournament of the year was delayed by three weeks to allow for the 14-day quarantine and a week of warm-up tournaments.

Some of the big stars got their season started unofficially on Friday in an exhibition tournament at Adelaide's Memorial Drive, where Serena Williams beat Osaka, Rafael Nadal defeated US Open champion Dominic Thiem and second-ranked Simona Halep beat no 1 Ash Barty.

Australian Open chief executive Craig Tiley said Saturday the Australian Open will be fair for all players despite differing preparations.

Tiley said the players who were in hard lockdown had been given priority with their schedules and access to training facilities. He said with all players having at least nine days between quarantine and the start of the Open, the tournament would be as fair as it could be.

"There have been a lot of questions about a fair playing field some players have had to quarantine, some have not," Tiley said.

"We've given nine days when coming out of quarantine to when they'll really need to be playing. It's not going to be perfectly ideal, but it's enough time to be as ready as you possibly can be. No different to inclement weather or someone being a bit sick and having to take a few days off."

As contractors put the finishing touches on the stadiums and surrounds at Melbourne Park, Victorian state sports minister Martin Pakula said crowds would be at about 50 per cent of previous years, with 390,000 people expected over the two weeks.

There will be 30,000 allowed through the gates each day for the first eight days, which will be reduced in the finals to crowds of 12,500 during the day session and 12,500 during the night sessions.

"Rod Laver Arena will have incredible atmosphere, not that different to the atmosphere we've seen at all the Opens in the years past," Pakula said of the tournament's main 15,000-seat arena.

Input. PTI

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India’s Test, ODI and T20I squads for Australia Tour announced

Guwahati: On Monday, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced India’s Test, ODI and T20I squads for the much-awaited tour of Australia, which is scheduled to start from November 27 in Sydney.

Virat Kohli is the captain of the Test, ODI and T20I teams. However, Rohit Sharma is missing from the limited-over’s squads. In the absence of ‘Hitman’, Karnataka stalwart KL Rahul has been named as the vice-captain of ODI and T20I teams.

Rahul has been picked in the Test team as well. Ajinkya Rahane shall be the vice-captain in the longest format. Veteran pacer Ishant Sharma is also missing out from the red-ball squad.

The progress of both Rohit and Ishant will get monitored by BCCI Medical Team.

Both India and Australia players, who are involved in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020, are set to leave for Australia a day after the IPL 2020 final on November 10.

Test specialists Cheteshwar Pujara and Hanuma Vihari along with India’s coaching staff have already landed in the UAE on Monday.

Four additional bowlers – Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kartik Tyagi, Ishan Porel and T. Natarajan – will travel with the Indian contingent.

Varun Chakravarthy gets T20I call-up; Mohammed Siraj in the Test squad

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy has received his maiden national-team call-up. Varun has been included in India’s T20I squad days after claiming a five-for against Delhi Capitals (DC) in the ongoing IPL 2020.

Apart from Chakravarthy, Mayank Agarwal and Shikhar Dhawan, have been added in the T20 team, while Shivam Dube, Kuldeep Yadav and Rishabh Pant misses out. Mohammed Siraj, who is having a tremendous IPL 2020, has been awarded a Test call up.

Here are the squads:

Test squad: Virat Kohli (c), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj.

ODI squad: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul (vc & wk), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur.

T20I squad: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (vc & wk), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy.

Inputs: Cricket

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Regaining form immediately not an easy task: Poonam Yadav

Agra: India’s premier leg spinner in women’s cricket Poonam Yadav is of the view that it will be hard to come out of months of physical inactivity caused by and pandemic-induced break and resume playing at peak immediately. Yadav last played competitive cricket in March last when India lost to Australia by 85 runs in the women's T20 World Cup final at the MCG.

However, given 20-25 days of group training, the players should be able to regain full fitness, Yadav feels.

While men's T20 World Cup has already been postponed, and a decision on next year's Women's ODI World Cup in New Zealand will be made soon, opined Greg Barclay, chairman of New Zealand Cricket.

Although she has been engaged in bowling practice at her home city of Agra during the forced break on account of the pandemic, she rued that a competitive environment was totally missing. At the moment she is working on variations like a flipper and top spinner.

It may be recalled that in the T20 World Cup in Australia, Yadav emerged as India's highest wicket-taker at an economy rate of 5.95.

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Twenty20 World Cup in Australia postponed

Dubai: The Twenty20 World Cup 2020, slated to start in Australia on October 18, has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been announced on Monday by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

“At today’s meeting ... windows for the next three ICC men’s events were also agreed to bring clarity to the calendar and give the sport the best possible opportunity,” said the ICC in a statement.

As per the statement, it is now clear that there will be back-to-back men’s T20 World Cups in 2021 and 2022 to be followed by the 50-overs World Cup in 2023 in India.

“The decision ... was taken after careful consideration of all of the options available to us and gives us the best possible opportunity of delivering two safe and successful T20 World Cups for fans around the world,” stated Manu Sawhney, ICC chief executive.

“Our members now have the clarity they need around event windows to enable them to reschedule lost bilateral and domestic cricket,” Sawhney added.

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