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Extremely severe cyclone Fani to hit Odisha coast on Friday afternoon

The extremely severe cyclonic storm, Fani, over westcentral Bay of Bengal, was very likely to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri, on Friday afternoon, the India Meteorological Department said on Thursday.
The extremely severe cyclonic storm, Fani, over westcentral Bay of Bengal, was very likely to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri, tomorrow afternoon, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said here today.
 
The IMD has already issued a cyclone warning for the coastal areas of Odisha and West Bengal and Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh.
 
In a bulletin issued at 1230 hours today, the IMD said Fani had moved further north-northeastwards with a speed of about 16 kmph in the previous six hours and lay centred at 1130 hours IST near latitude 16.7°N and longitude 84.8°E, about 360 km south-southwest of Puri (Odisha), 190 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and 550 km south-southwest of Digha (West Bengal). 
 
"It is very likely to move north-northeastwards and cross Odisha Coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri by the afternoon of 3rd May with maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph gusting to 200 kmph," the bulletin said.
 
The cyclone is being tracked by Doppler Weather Radars Vishakhapatnam & Machilipatnam.
 
The bulletin said light to moderate rainfall would occur over most places in North Andhra Pradesh with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts and isolated heavy to extremely heavy falls (>20 cm) over Srikakulam district today.
 
There could be heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places over Srikakulam district tomorrow, it said.
 
In  south coastal and adjoining interior Odisha, the IMD said there could be light to moderate rainfall at most places today, with heavy to very heavy rainfall and extremely heavy falls over Ganjam & Gajapati districts at isolated places.
 
"It is likely to increase with moderate rainfall at most places and heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places over coastal Odisha and adjoining districts of interior Odisha on 3rd. Light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy falls at isolated places over Balasore, Mayurbhanj districts of north Odisha on 4th May," it said.
 
The bulletin also forecast light to light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places very likely over coastal and adjoining districts of West Bengal tomorrow; and heavy to very falls at isolated places over Gangetic West Bengal on May 4.
 
"Light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy falls at isolated places over sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim on 4th May," it said.
 
The bulletin said Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya would experience light to moderate rainfall at most places, with isolated heavy to very heavy falls on May 4 and 5. There could be isolated extremely heavy falls over Assam and Meghalaya on May 4.
 
There could also light to moderate rainfall at many places over Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura on May 4, with isolated heavy falls.
 
The bulletin said gale winds, with speed reaching 180-190 kmph, gusting to 210 kmph, were very likely to prevail over westcentral Bay of Bengal around the system centre during the next 24 hours and decrease thereafter.
 
It said squally winds, with speed reaching 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, were very likely to prevail along and off north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha Coasts and become gale wind, speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph, from tonight. It is very likely to become 170-180 kmph, gusting to 200 kmph, along and off south Odisha and adjoining north Andhra Pradesh (Srikakulam district) coasts; and 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph along and off remaining districts of coastal Odisha and north Andhra Pradesh (Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram Districts) by tomorrow forenoon for the subsequent 12 hours and decrease thereafter.
 
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"Squally wind speed reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph is very likely along & off West Bengal coast from 2nd May evening. It is very likely become gale wind speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph from 3rd May afternoon and become 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph from 4th May early morning for subsequent 12 hours and decrease thereafter," it said.
 
The sea condition will be phenomenal over westcentral Bay of Bengal, off north Andhra Pradesh coasts, till tomorrow and over northwest Bay of Bengal off Odisha and West Bengal till May 4.
 
Sea conditions are very likely to be very rough to high off north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, along and off south Andhra Pradesh coasts till May 3.
 
The bulletin warned that storm surge of 1.5 metre height above astronomical tide was very likely to inundate low-lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha at the time of landfall.
 
Fishermen were advised not to venture into deep sea areas and those out in deep sea in the above aeas were advised to return to the coasts.
 
The bulletin said the cyclone could cause extensive damage to kutcha houses and old pucca and badly managed pucca structures in Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha.
 
It said there could be extensive uprooting of communication and  power poles. There could also be disruption of rail and road links and extensive damage to standing crops, plantations and orchards. Large boats and ships may get torn from their moorings.
 
The IMD suggested total suspension of fishing operations, extensive evacuation of people from coastal areas, and diversion or suspension of rail and road traffic. People in affected areas have been advised to remain indoors.
 
The cyclone could also cause damage, on a lesser scale, in Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Balasore districts of Odisha and east and west Medinipur, south and north 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hoogli, Kolkata districts of West Bengal and Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts of Andhra Pradesh, the bulletin added.
 
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Modi attacks Congress, says law won't spare those who toyed with national security

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a sharp attack on Congress leaders Rahul and Sonia Gandhi on Saturday saying the law will not spare anyone who "toyed" with national security and suggested links between them and Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.
 
Better roadways, trains & cheaper airline fares boost ease of living: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a sharp attack on Congress leaders Rahul and Sonia Gandhi on Saturday saying the law will not spare anyone who "toyed" with national security between 2004 and 2014 and suggested links between them and arrested British national Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case.
 
Addressing a public rally here, he said the "society of thieves" was ganging up to remove the country's 'chowkidar' who was out to expose and catch them. 
 
Without taking the names of the either the party or its leaders, Modi said the Congress conspired to weaken the country's defence forces when it was in power between 2004 and 2014. He also congratulated "India's first woman Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for exposing those who misled the nation and played with the nation's security for their own entertainment."
 
"Between 2004 and 2014, they conspired to weaken the country's defence forces. The nation is now understanding that. And when our government is bringing the defence forces of the country out of their web of conspiracy, they are feeling pricked," he said.
 
Modi said the truth was hurting the Congress and its leadership because they were being exposed. 
 
"One letter of the middleman of helicopter scam and the 'raazdar' (holder) of Congress' secrets Christian Michel -- who has been extradited -- has exposed that he had deep friendship with top Congress leaders. He was well aware of every file movement (on chopper deal) in the Prime Minister's office. 
 
"Possibly, the middlemen knew more than even the Prime Minister at that time. He even got all information of meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security which he used to send abroad," he said.
 
"I fail to understand if the Congress ran the government or Michel 'mama's darbar' (uncle's court). I want to clearly state today that investigation will take place against all those who worked for the interest of the middlemen instead of national interest," he added.
 
Modi said his government was taking strong decisions for the nation's security. "I assure you that those who did injustice to the nation's defence forces will be brought to justice. I assure you that law won't spare anyone."
 
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The Prime Minister started his speech with 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram' chants and said it was necessitated because "some people in our country have problem with these slogans as well".
 
In a reference to Rahul Gandhi, he said the leader of the country's oldest party asks why Modi greets people with 'Bharat Ma Ki Jai' slogans. 
 
"In Madhya Pradesh, a new government has been formed -- which has not even won a complete majority. And look at that government's priority -- the first thing the hung Assembly led by the Congress did was to attack 'Vande Mataram'," Modi said, referring to the Madhya Pradesh's order suspending singing of Vande Mataram on the first working day of every month in the Secretariat.
 
"It (the order) kicked up a storm and now they are trying to find a way out," he said. 
 
"Second thing they did was to try and stop the pension of those who fought against the Emergency to defend India's democracy. But due to efforts of the BJP workers, they had to take back their order on 'Vande Mataram', and now they would also have to reinstate the pension of those who fought against Emergency," the Prime Minister said.
 
He also attacked the Odisha government for not doing enough for women and said the Central government's efforts for women empowerment were not reaching the women of Odisha as "the state government is not serious about women welfare". 
 
He said Odisha was lagging behind on parameters related to women health and well-being.
 
IANS
 

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Cyclone Titli triggers flood-like situation in Odisha

Heavy rains triggered by the severe cyclonic storm Titli have caused flood-like situations in several districts of Odisha on Friday.
 
Cyclone Titli makes landfall in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh
Heavy rains triggered by the severe cyclonic storm Titli have caused flood-like situations in several districts of Odisha on Friday.
 
The situation remains vulnerable, especially in Ganjam, Rayagada and Gajapati districts where the remote areas have been cut off due to the incessant rains after Titli hit the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh coast on Thursday morning.
 
During a review meeting via video conferencing, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday directed the three district collectors to closely monitor the situation and shift the people living in vulnerable areas to safer places.
 
He directed them to focus on early restoration of power supply and emergency services.
 
The Chief Minister has also asked the collectors to submit crop and house damage assessment reports within seven days.
 
Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi said two Indian Navy choppers from Vishakapatnam will be pressed into action in Ganjam district to expedite the relief and rescue operations.
 
"The two choppers are on their way to Ganjam. They will carry out relief and rescue operations in Aska and Puroshotam areas," said Padhi.
 
He said 14 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and 12 Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) have been deployed in various districts.
 
Road and electricity restoration works were also in full swing in the affected districts.
 
Reacting to casualty reports, the Chief Secretary said: "We have seen media reports of the deaths of two or three persons in these districts. We are verifying it."
 
The water is flowing above danger level in Vansadhara, Rusikulya and Jalaka rivers. 
 
A total of 16 blocks have received about 200-300 mm rainfall in the last 24 hours while 60 blocks received 100-200 mm rainfall in the state. 
 
Some blocks received more than 300 mm of rainfall.
 
IANS

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8 die as cyclone Titli batters Andhra, Odisha coast

A very severe cyclonic storm, Titli, unleashed havoc in north coastal Andhra Pradesh and south coastal Odisha on Thursday, claiming eight lives in Andhra and causing widespread destruction, officials said.
 
Cyclone Titli makes landfall in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh
A very severe cyclonic storm, Titli, unleashed havoc in north coastal Andhra Pradesh and south coastal Odisha on Thursday, claiming eight lives in Andhra and causing widespread destruction, officials said.
 
The cyclone, which made landfall between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha early on Thursday, triggered widespread rains in the two states, uprooted trees, electricity poles, communication towers, damaged houses and crops and snapped electricity supply.
 
Srikakulam and Vijayanagaram districts of Andhra Pradesh were affected by the cyclone, which hit the coast near Palasa close to the border with Odisha. Srikakulam district bore the brunt as the strong winds uprooted a large number of coconut trees.
 
Officials said five deaths were reported from Srikakulam district while three persons were killed in neighbouring Vijayanagaram district. Six fishermen were among the dead.
 
According to the Visakhapatnam Cyclone Warning Centre, Titli crossed between North Andhra and South Odisha coast near Palasa with wind speed of 140-150 km per hour.
 
Parts of the two Andhra districts received heavy rainfall triggered by the cyclone. A few places in Srikakulam district got over 20 cm rainfall, flooding the low-lying areas and roads.
 
Uprooted trees fell on the roads, disrupting vehicular traffic. The state-owned road transport corporation suspended all bus services on the Andhra-Odisha border area.
 
Several trains were cancelled or diverted due to the cyclone.
 
According to East Coast Railway, railway stations were damaged at several places. The station at Palasa suffered massive damage. Teams of railway officials were studying the impact of cyclone between Palasa and Brahmpur.
 
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu reached Visakhapatnam on Thursday evening and left for Srikakulam by road to review the situation.
 
Titli triggered heavy rainfall in eight districts in Odisha. However, there was no loss of life in the state.
 
Heavy rains lashed Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak and Balasore districts as Titli left behind uprooted trees and displaced three lakh people.
 
Odisha is facing a possible flood in its coastal belt on Thursday, an official said.
 
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said that heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy rainfall at isolated places were very likely in Odisha in the next 24 hours.
 
"We believe that the entire state, except some western parts, is likely to receive rain throughout the day. Depending upon the rainfall, we may see some flood in coastal Odisha. However, there is no flood-like situation as of now," said Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi.
 
"There may be flooding of the Vansadhara river as Gajapati and Rayagada districts received heavy rainfall due to the cyclone," he added.
 
The officer said that Gajapati district, which was most affected, received more than 200 mm of rainfall while Mohana block in the district received the maximum rainfall of 315 mm.
 
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday reviewed the cyclone situation.
 
Around three lakh people have been evacuated in the coastal state and 1,112 relief camps set up for the evacuees. As many as 105 pregnant women in Ganjam and 18 in Jgatsinghpur were shifted to hospitals.
 
All schools, colleges and anganwadis would remain closed on Thursday and Friday. Trees have been uprooted in large numbers in the coastal belt.
 
The system is very likely to move northwestwards for next 12 hours and then re-curve northeastwards towards Gangetic West Bengal across Odisha.
 
The coastal alert has been put at 10 -- the highest with fishermen prohibited from venturing into the sea for the next few days.
 
IANS
 

Six coaches of Utkal Express derail near Muzzafarnagar in Uttar Pradesh

Six coaches of the 18477 Utkal Express, from Puri in Odisha to Haridwar in Uttarakhand, derailed at Khatauli, about 25 km from Muzzafarnagar, in Uttar Pradesh, this evening.
 
The mishap occurred around 5.46 pm today, railway sources said, adding that details of casualties were not immediately available.
 
Television pictures from the scene showed that one of the coaches had climbed on to the top of another coach, and one of its ends had crashed into a building on the side of the track.
 
Gas cutters were being used to cut through the mangled steel to pull out those trapped inside the coaches. 
 
"Our focus right now is on rescue and relief operations. Officers and staff from the nearby railway stations have reached the spot," Ministry of Railways spokesman Anil Saxena told journalists in New Delhi.
 
Khatauli is located on the Meerut-Saharanpur section of the Delhi Division of Northern Railway.
 
"We have geared up our rescue and relief machinery. Senior officials of Delhi Division have rushed to the accident site. Staff and officers from the nearby stations have already reached there," Mr. Saxena said.
 
He said personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) would also reach the site soon.
 
The train had left Puri yesterday and was due to reach Haridwar at 9 pm today, they said.
 
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said on micro-blogging site Twitter that he was personally monitoring the situation and had instructed senior officers to reach the spot immediately and ensure speedy rescue and relief operations. He said medical vans had been rushed to the site of the accident.
 
"Have instructed Chairman Rly Board, Member Traffic to oversee rescue and relief operations. I am personally monitoring situation," he said. "Instructed General Manager, other senior officers to ensure all possible help to the people."
 
"In close touch with @CMOfficeUP , State Government officials, district administration to coordinate rescue and relief operations," he said.
 
Mr. Prabhu said he had instructed the Member, Engineering of the Railway Board, the Director General, Health and other senior officers to rush to the scene.
 
"Have ordered inquiry into the unfortunate accident to ascertain the cause. Strict action will be taken against any lapse," he added.
 
Mr. Prabhu said Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha and Minister of State for Water Resources Sanjeev Kumar Baliyan were on their way to the scene of the accident.
 
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told journalists that two State Ministers -- Satish Mahana and Suresh Rana -- have also left for the spot.
 
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Football ISL: Juanan fires Bengaluru to the top

Bengaluru FC extended their unbeaten start in the ongoing Hero Indian Super League (ISL) to seven games with a narrow 1-0 win against Odisha FC at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here on Wednesday.
 
Centre-back Juanan (36') scored his first goal of the season to secure Bengaluru's third win of the season and take them to the top of the table. After seven matches, Carles Cuadrat's side has 13 points while Odisha are sixth with six points.
 
The teams were off the blocks in quick time and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was called into action within minutes. Nandhakumar Sekar latched onto a pass from the deep, cut in from the left to shift the ball to his right foot and attempted a ferocious strike that looked destined for the bottom right corner but a vital fingertip save by the Bengaluru goalkeeper kept the shot out.
 
The teams missed chances to score as Jerry Mawihmingthanga shot wide from a corner and Sunil Chhetri failed to hit the target from a Udanta Singh cross. With the contest heating up, centre-back Juanan showcased his centre-forward skills to give Bengaluru the lead. Nishu Kumar's lob into the box was flicked into the defender's path by Erik Paartalu before the Spaniard outfoxed Carlos Delgado to send a scuffed shot that went in off the post.
 
The Blues had the chance to double their lead just before the break when Chhetri took advantage of a misplaced pass and charged at the Odisha defence. He spotted Udanta's run to his right and set him up for a shot, but the winger tried to return the favour and failed to find his teammate.
 
Odisha stepped up their efforts and chased an equaliser after the break. In the 55th minute, Marcos Tebar's header forced a fantastic reflex save off Gurpreet. The ball fell at Diagne's feet, but the Bengaluru custodian pulled off another good save to deny the defender from close-range.
 
Minutes later, Udanta found Chhetri in the centre whose shot was blocked by Delgado. The rebound was hit well by Dimas but Arshdeep Singh got his body behind the shot to save.
 
The goalkeepers had a busy night in between the sticks. Gurpreet was vigilant in goal and kept out strikes from Marcos Tebar and Xisco to keep his team in the lead as the clock ticked towards the final whistle. At the other end, Bengaluru threatened through set-pieces and crosses from wide areas. Arshdeep did well to push behind Erik Paartalu's powerful volley off Dimas' delivery from a corner-kick.
 
Bengaluru, who were denied a second goal by the post from a good Dimas free-kick, looked to be the fitter team in the final minutes as they stood firm and defended well to prevent a late show.
 
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Football: After hat-trick of draws, Odisha eye win against Bengaluru in ISL

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Odisha FC will be out to break their string of draws with a victory when they host defending champions Bengaluru FC at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here on Wednesday.
 
Josep Gombau’s side comes into this tie after playing out three successive draws, two goalless results against ATK and Kerala Blasters, followed by a 2-2 draw away to Chennaiyin FC.
 
The pattern of play in all these matches have been similar. They dominated the ball with slick movement and passing, but failed to take their chances and convert their dominance into results.
 
As Gombau seeks to deliver results, he faces a tough challenge in Bengaluru FC. The Blues are undefeated in the league so far and boast a water-tight defence which has conceded only two goals in six matches.
 
“It is a beautiful game against Bengaluru, who are one of the strongest sides and the current champions of the ISL. I think it will be an interesting game because both teams play similar football. I am happy with the way we are preparing well for this game and the mentality of the team,” said Gombau.
 
Odisha will bank on Aridane Santana, who has scored four goals so far, to help breach the Bengaluru backline. But much will depend on playmaker Xisco Hernandez who has the ability to carve open any defence. He has also shown his eye for goals, racking three goals up so far. The Spaniard will be pumped up for the battle against his former team and will play a huge role in the outcome of Wednesday’s encounter.
 
Much will also depend on the midfield battle as two technically-gifted sets of players go up against each other. The likes of Marcos Tebar, Vinit Rai and Xisco Hernandez love to get on the ball and dictate play. But so do Bengaluru’s midfielders, Erik Paartalu, Dimas Delgado and Raphael Augusto.
 
“Odisha are going to fight against us for possession of the game, and it's going to be an interesting game. Josep Gombau is a hard-working, honest person and a good coach. He loves to play attacking football,” said Bengaluru coach Carles Cuadrat.
 
Bengaluru come into this game after a gut-wrenching 1-1 draw in Hyderabad where an injury-time equaliser from Robin Singh denied them a win. Cuadrat’s team were all over Hyderabad FC throughout the game and should have scored more goals to put the tie to bed.
 
Lack of goals has been a worry for the Blues despite Sunil Chhetri’s recent scoring run. The injured Michael Onwu and Ashique Kuruniyan are yet to open their accounts for the season while Udanta Singh has just one goal to his name so far.
 
“Most of the games we were dominating. We have to finish those games well. We have not been good enough in certain aspects, and we have to work on that. I am not worried about not getting goals. Sunil is an experienced player. He is giving us solutions. Ashique and Udanta are young players and they are improving,” Cuadrat said.
 
Odisha’s backline has not exactly been rock-solid, conceding eight goals in six games. With Carlos Delgado doubtful after an injury he picked up against Chennaiyin FC, Bengaluru will want their forwards to make an impact.
 
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India conducts another night trial of Prithvi-II missile

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India on Tuesday conducted a night trial of its indigenously developed, nuclear-capable surface-to-surface Prithvi-II missile off the Odisha coast.
 
The Strategic Forces Command conducted the night trial of short-range ballistic missile Prithvi-II from launch complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range in Chandipur, said defence sources.
 
The missile, which has a strike range of 350 km, was test-fired at 7.48 p.m. on Tuesday, the sources added.
 
The last night-time test of the Prithvi-II was on November 20 this year.
 
Prithvi-II, which is capable of carrying 500 to 1,000 kg of warheads, is powered by liquid propulsion twin engines.
 
It was inducted into the Indian defence forces in 2003.
 
IANS
 

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Hockey: Team has grown steadily in the past year, says skipper Manpreet Singh

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With Hockey India announcing Bhubaneswar and Rourkela as the host cities for the 2023 FIH Men's World Cup, team captain Manpreet Singh expressed excitement about the prestigious quadrennial event returning to the spectacular Kalinga Stadium. 
 
"There is no doubt that the Kalinga Stadium is one of the world's best venues we have ever played in. It's not only the Indian team who enjoy playing here but other teams like Belgium and the Netherlands, too, enjoy the crowds, the atmosphere and the infrastructure here. It is the first time that India will be hosting back-to-back World Cups and it is a matter of great pride for us. It will also be 75 years since Indian Independence in 2023 and it would be incredible if we can add to the celebrations by lifting the World Cup title," he opined.  
 
On Rourkela being another host city, Manpreet said, "This is a great initiative taken up by the Odisha Government and Hockey India. Rourkela and its surrounding region have a rich hockey culture with many of my teammates and senior players emerging from there. Hosting a major event like the World Cup there will not only boost the hockey scene further, it will also show the real hockey belt of Odisha to the world." 
 
Speaking about India's performance, Manpreet said the team is steadily improving and Hockey Pro League will test their consistency. "I think the team has grown steadily in this past year with a number of youngsters getting very good international exposure. We have a good pool of players who can be further tested during the Hockey Pro League. Although we have maintained our world ranking at No. 5, our consistency will be put to test during the Hockey Pro League where we play top teams like the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia in the first three months of the season," added the midfielder.  
 
The Men's Hockey Team are currently based out of Bhubaneswar for the ongoing National Coaching Camp that concludes on December 8.
 
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India conducts 1st night trial of nuclear capable Agni-III missile

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India conducted the first night trial of the nuclear-capable long-range ballistic missile Agni-III from the Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast on Saturday.
 
The Strategic Forces Command of the Indian Army conducted the trial from launch pad-IV of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Bhadrak district at 7.17 p.m., said defence sources.
 
According to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Agni-III is the mainstay of India's nuclear arsenal.
 
The missile was inducted into the armed forces in June 2011.
 
The missile has a strike range of 3,000 km to 5,000 km and is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads weighing up to 1.5 tonnes.
 
The missile is powered by a two-stage solid propellant engine. It is 17 metres long with two-metre diameter and weighs around 2,200 kg.
 
IANS
 

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Football ISL: Odisha fight back twice to win a point in Chennai

Chennaiyin FC and Odisha FC shared the spoils after a thrilling Hero Indian Super League (ISL) encounter ended in a 2-2 draw at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.
 
After a barren first-half, Nerijus Valskis (51’) handed Chennaiyin the lead. But Odisha equalised through Xisco Hernandez (54’). Valskis thought he had given Chennaiyin the win with a second goal in the 71st minute, but Aridane Santana (82’) ensured Odisha returned from Chennai with a point.
 
The result sees Chennaiyin climb to the eighth spot in the table with five points from six games while Odisha, who played out a third consecutive draw, are sixth with six points.
 
Odisha, as expected, had most of the early possession and the first real chance did come their way. Masih Saighani gave away the ball in midfield in the eighth minute, allowing Jerry Mawihmingthanga to intercept and move forward. The ball eventually fell to Xisco Hernandez inside the box and his snap-shot was saved by an alert Chennaiyin goalkeeper Vishal Kaith.
 
The home side found themselves on the backfoot trying to keep Odisha at bay for much of the first half. Odisha were guilty of wasting good opportunities though.
 
As the half wound down, the tide did turn a little and Chennaiyin started to find more joy going forward. But apart from a few half-chances, the hosts could not fashion any chance of note.
 
At the stroke of half-time, Odisha had a great chance when Santana slipped Jerry in behind the defence, but his shot went wide of the far post.
 
Chennaiyin, seeking a response, took off Saighani at the restart and brought on Germanpreet Singh. Six minutes into the second half, the home side surged into the lead. After gaining possession in Odisha’s half, Thapa ran at the Odisha defenders before slipping in Thoi Singh down the right. Thoi squared the ball for Valskis who converted with ease.
 
The goal sparked a reaction from Odisha and they were level within three minutes. Nandha’s cross from the left fell for Jerry at the far post who saw his shot blocked by Kaith. But the deflection fell for Xisco who lashed in gleefully.
 
The game soon turned into an open contest with both sides going for victory. But it was the home side who restored their lead in the 71st minute right after Shubham Sarangi had made a goal-saving block on Lallianzuala Chhangte. But Valskis was on hand to deftly nod the ensuing corner into the far post to lift the home crowd.
 
But that lead did not last either as Odisha equalised again in the 82nd minute. Nandha started the move with a mazy dribble on the left before Martin Perez Guedes touched a pass into Santana’s path. The Spanish striker swiveled smartly and sent an arrowing effort past Kaith. 
 
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Hockey fiesta returns to Odisha; Bhubaneswar and Rourkela to host 2023 World Cup

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Hockey India on Wednesday named Bhubaneswar and Rourkela as the venues for the 2023 FIH  World Cup.
 
The announcement was made by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at an event held here to mark the one-year anniversary of the commencement of the Odisha World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018.
 
"Odisha  has always been the cradle of hockey, and with the successful organising of the  2018 World Cup, we showcased a very different side of our state. We have always had a very passionate crowd which supports the sport of hockey, and with the presence of world-class, top-of-the-line facilities in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela, it swells my heart with great pride that Odisha will once again be celebrating the festival of hockey when we host the FIH Hockey Men's World Cup in January 2023," Patnaik said. 
 
He also announced that all 17 blocks of Sundargarh district would be equipped with synthetic pitches.
 
Speaking on the occasion, FIH President Narinder Batra said: “On behalf of FIH, I would like to extend our sincerest thanks to the Government of Odisha and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, in particular, for their great and permanent support to hockey over the years. This really is remarkable and contributes to growing our sport not only in India but in the world also. Our thanks also go to Hockey India for their dedication and efforts to put together an unforgettable event.”
 
"The precision with which the last World Cup  was conducted, and the grandeur of the marquee event drew several accolades from the hockey fraternity worldwide. The unparalleled support by Government of Odisha towards the development of hockey, their vision to provide state-of-the-art infrastructure like none other in the world, and the government's willingness to invest in the event were some of the key reasons to name the State as the venue for the prestigious event in 2023," he said.
 
Thierry Weil, CEO, FIH echoed Batra's views and stated: “We are glad to come back to Odisha where everyone, from the fans to the teams and the officials, had such a great experience a year ago. Conscious of the costs generated by the organization of such world events, we think that using existing facilities – especially when they are of the quality of those provided in Bhubaneswar – is a real advantage. Also, the income-generation potential of the bid submitted by Hockey India will contribute to the development of hockey worldwide, which is the first mission of the International Hockey Federation. Furthermore, we will work closely with Hockey India on the sustainability and legacy aspects of the 2023 FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup.”
 
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ISL: Rejuvenated Chennaiyin eye Odisha scalp

A revitalised Chennaiyin FC will look to build some momentum when they take on Odisha FC in a Hero Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.
 
After remaining winless, and goalless, in their opening four games, the two-time champions defeated Hyderabad FC 2-1 in thrilling fashion, courtesy two late injury-time goals from strikers Andre Schembri and Nerijus Valskis.
 
Head coach John Gregory will hope that the dramatic nature of the result serves as a shot in their arm and rejuvenates their fortunes. He will also hope that their profligacy in front of the goal will be a thing of the past now.
 
Although they dominated Hyderabad throughout the game on Monday, the goals came in only at the death. While they were rewarded for their persistence, they also failed to convert the ample opportunities which came their way.
 
“I’ve never had any doubts about my strikers. They score every day in training. I knew a lot about the two of them and their ability before they came here. They showed it in practice matches, but it was not happening in the ISL. It was worrying. But they both showed their quality against Hyderabad. I never lost my belief in them. Hopefully, there’s many more to come,” said Gregory.
 
The focus will certainly be on winger Lallianzuala Chhangte as he spent a season under the tutelage of Josep Gombau before choosing to switch to Chennai. Odisha FC have replaced Chhangte with Jerry Mawihmingthanga, who has provided as many as three assists this season.
 
Odisha FC too have only managed to register one win from their five matches. In each of their games, they have dominated possession statistics and played an exuberant brand of football which has not always yielded the best result.
 
While their defence has shown a lot of improvement from last year, they are coming off two consecutive goalless draws. But Gombau is not a worried man.
 
“The most important thing is to create chances. If you create, you will score at some point. We work on training, improving our crossing and finishing. We have scored six goals in five games which is not a bad number. We have not scored in the last two matches but hopefully, we can score early,” he said.
 
Xisco Hernandez could be handed a start in Chennai in order to further boost their creative output.
 
Gombau also chose to field his foreign players in the outfield as opposed to having Francisco Dorronsorro in between the sticks in the previous game against ATK. Although Arshdeep Singh gave a decent account of himself, it will be interesting to see if the Spaniard continues to pick his foreigners in the outfield.
 
Chennaiyin have just four points from five games while Odisha have five to their name. A win on Thursday is critical to both teams.
 
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Football: Odisha, ATK play out goalless draw

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ATK and Odisha FC played out a goalless draw in a Hero Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here on Sunday.
 
Both sides carved out numerous chances to break the deadlock but a goal would not materialise.
 
The result sees ATK maintain their spot atop the table with 10 points from five games while Odisha are now fifth with five points from as many matches.
 
The game got off to an energetic start with ATK looking to go forward quickly. However, Odisha pressed their opponents hard and forced a couple of bad passes.
 
Odisha slowly started to put ATK’s defence under pressure and had two chances to take the lead after 15 minutes. Nandhakumar Sekar headed over from close range after Martin Guedes’ corner evaded ATK custodian Arindam Bhattacharja. Then, Daniel Lalhlimpuia displayed silky skills to embark on a mazy run, evading three ATK defenders with ease, but he lost his footing and could only direct a tame effort at Arindam.
 
Odisha’s dominance continued as Nandhakumar picked out Guedes in the box, but he could not get a shot away in the 24th minute.
 
In the middle of all the Odisha pressure, ATK had a chance when Javier Hernandez was sent through on goal, but Odisha goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh was quick to pounce on the ball.
 
Odisha continued to be in the ascendancy with Shubham Sarangi and Nandhakumar Sekar asking quite a few questions of the ATK defence.
 
The frantic nature of the game continued even in the second half. Odisha continued to assert their dominance and Martin Guedes saw a shot in the 52nd minute saved by Arindam.
 
At the other end, ATK started to slowly claw their way back into the game and had a great chance when second-half substitute Jobby Justin got on the end of a corner and got a header on target in the 63rd minute. Nandhakumar, however, was on hand to clear the ball off the line.
 
Jerry Mawihmingthanga then picked out Aridane Santana at the far post but could not get his header on target as ATK heaved a sigh of relief.
 
Both sides continued to test each other in a bid to find a winner but a combination of sloppy passing and poor finishing kept the deadlock intact.
 
There was some drama at the end as ATK forced a series of corners but a goal would not come to fruition.
 
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India conducts first night trial of Agni-II missile

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India on Saturday successfully conducted the first night trial of nuclear capable intermediate range ballistic missile Agni-II from the Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast.
 
The Strategic Forces Command of the Indian Army test-fired the versatile surface-to-surface medium-range nuclear-capable missile from launching complex IV of the Integrated Test Range on Saturday evening, defence sources said.
 
Developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the missile has already been inducted into the armed forces.
 
The 20-metre long, two stage ballistic missile has a strike range of 2,000 km. It has a launch weight of 17 tonnes and can carry a payload of 1,000 kg, the sources said.
 
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Cyclone Bulbul moves towards Bengal, causes heavy rains in coastal Odisha

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With Cyclone Bulbul progressing towards West Bengal coast, it has triggered heavy rainfall coupled with strong winds in the coastal districts of Odisha on Saturday.
 
Hundreds of trees were found uprooted in several places in the coastal districts while the NDRF, ODRAF, police and fire personnel have been engaged in clearing road blockades by removing the uprooted trees lying on the roads.
 
Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Pradeep Jena said information had been received about the uprooting of trees in Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Bhadrak districts.
 
He, however, said that they had not received reports about any loss of life so far.
 
The SRC said that Dhamra in Bhadrak district recorded a wind speed of 110 kmph.
 
The Kendrapara district administration has evacuated 1070 people to several shelters. More than 1,500 persons were evacuated to safety in Balasore and Jagatsingpur districts.
 
In the last 24 hours, Paradip received the highest rainfall of 159 mm, followed by Chandbali with 143 mm and Balasore 32 mm of rainfall.
 
Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy reviewed the situation with Bhubaneswar meteorological centre director H. R. Biswas on Saturday morning.
 
"We are keeping a close watch on the situation," said Tripathy.
 
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the very severe cyclonic storm Bulbul is currently lying 98 km east-northeast of Paradip and 135 km south-southwest of Balasore in Odisha.
 
The system, moving at a speed of 15 kmph, is likely to weaken gradually and move northeastwards towards West Bengal and Bangladesh, it said.
 
The IMD said gale wind speed 70-80 kmph gusting to 90 kmph is prevailing along and off Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Bhadrak and Balasore districts of Odisha and East Medinipur, south and north 24 Parganas districts of West Bengal.
 
It has predicted that gale wind speed 70-80 kmph gusting to 90 kmph is likely to continue for next 3 hours along and off Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, and for next 6 hours along and off Bhadrak and Balasore districts of Odisha.
 
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Principal Secretary to PM holds meeting on Cyclone 'Bulbul'

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P K Mishra, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, held a high-level meeting today with the States of Odisha, West Bengal and Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, to review their preparedness to deal with the approaching cyclonic storm "Bulbul".
 
The meeting reviewed the situation arising due to movement of the cyclone in the last few hours.
 
The Director-General of India Meteorological Department (IMD) gave a detailed forecast on Bulbul, its projected track and accompanying wind speed and rainfall in the sea and along the coasts of Odisha and West Bengal. 
 
He informed the meeting that coastal Odisha is likely to witness wind speed of 70-80 kmph gusting up to 90 kmph tomorrow, accompanied by heavy to very heavy rain.
 
A similar situation is likely to prevail in coastal West Bengal on November 9. Sea conditions will be very rough and fishing operations should be completely suspended, the IMD said.
 
The State Chief Secretaries informed the meeting that all precautionary measures had been taken in the coastal regions and that the situation was being monitored round the clock. Fishermen have been advised to not venture out to the sea and those at sea have been advised to return.
 
The Director General of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) told the meeting that its teams were fully prepared with all the  required equipment like tree cutters and pole cutters and are on standby. Indian Coast Guard is also on alert and advising fishermen and merchant ships not to venture out to the sea.
 
Mishra advised them to take all possible measures to ensure that casualties and loss to property are minimised. He also assured the States of all the necessary central assistance required in the developing situation.
 
The meeting was attended by the Principal Adviser to the Prime Minister; Secretaries of Home Affairs, and Information and Broadcasting; Member, NDMA; and senior officers from PMO and the Ministries of Home Affairs and Defence. The  Chief Secretaries/ representatives from West Bengal, Odisha and Andaman & Nicobar Islands joined the meeting through video conference.
 
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India men seal Olympics berth with 7-1 drubbing of Russia

The Indian men's hockey team on Saturday qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a 7-1 drubbing of 22nd-ranked Russia in the second leg of their Olympic qualifiers here.
 
World No. 5 India came into the match with a 4-2 lead in the first leg, which meant that the aggregate score at the end of the match was 11-3 in their favour.
 
The hosts were given an early scare with Russia scoring within the first 25 seconds of the match. Alexey Sobolevskiy scored after Russia charged at an unprepared Indian defence.
 
It looked like the match might follow a similar script to that of the women's qualifier earlier in the night, in which India squandered a 5-1 first leg lead and had to depend on skipper Rani Rampal's late strike to pull off a 6-5 aggregate win over a resurgent USA to seal their place in the Olympics.
 
But the Indian men maintained their composure and slowly but surely started asserting themselves against their opponents, who were the lowest-ranked team in the draw for the Olympic qualifiers.
 
However, it was a jittery first quarter for the hosts. They dominated possession but couldn't get too many shots at goal. They had one penalty corner in the first quarter which came to nothing. The first quarter ended with India holding a slender one-goal lead on aggregate.
 
Two minutes into the second quarter, Lalit Upadhyay managed to get his stick on Hardik Singh's shot to double India's aggregate lead. Akashdeep Singh then scored twice in the 23rd and 29th minute to put clear daylight between his side and the Russians.
 
At half-time, India led 3-1, taking the aggregate score to 7-3.
 
Russia then pulled up their socks to ensure that they didn't concede any more goals in the third quarter. They also created a good chance, but the final shot was woefully off target. But by the end of the quarter, the Russians cut a tired figure and finally buckled in the fourth quarter.
 
Nilakanta Sharma, Amit Rohidas and Rupinder Singh (2) found the back of the net in the final quarter as India pumped in four goals past Russia to seal an emphatic victory.
 
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Captain Rani's strike sends India to 2020 Olympics

Rani Rampal
Rani Rampal
The Indian women's hockey team on Saturday confirmed a place in the 2020 Olympics after surviving an extraordinary fightback from the USA in the second leg of their Olympic qualifier at the Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneswar. 
 
The USA fought back from a 5-1 deficit from the first leg to level the score 5-5 in the first half. India put up an improved performance in the second half with skipper Rani Rampal scoring what turned out to be the winning goal in the 49th minute.
 
After what was a nightmarish first half in which a relentless USA banged in four goals, India came out in the second half as a much more compact unit. They were losing possession cheaply in the early exchanges but being more intent in attacks meant that they were pushing back the confident Americans.
 
All of this culminated in a penalty corner (PC). Gurjit Kaur took the drag flick which missed the target by inches. She kept it on target when they won another PC a couple of minutes later and it was a brilliant reflex save from Kelsey Bing that kept the scoreline level. The third quarter ended with the score 5-5 on aggregate and it was the first in which India hadn't conceded a goal.
 
The final quarter started with India much more comfortable in possession. They were given an impetus when the USA got a yellow card and were thus down to 10 players for five minutes.
 
India took advantage with Rani firing it into the roof of the net from the edge of the circle after a scramble in the box in the very next minute.
 
India kept the USA under strain for much of the final quarter before the final few minutes, when they were pushed back by the visitors. However the hosts held on and ensured a place in the Olympics for the second time on the trot.
 
India's four-goal advantage was wiped away in the first half of the match as a relentless USA came out all guns blazing. They got consecutive penalty corners in the third minute, with a shot from rebound on an open goal going wide.
 
The USA kept at it however and soon got the first goal through another PC. Amanda Magadan managed to get a deflection in the air off captain Kathleen Sharkey's drag-flick and scored the first goal of the night in the fifth minute.
 
India put the US defence under some pressure for a few minutes after that but the balance soon shifted back to the away side's favour. Sharkey cut the deficit to two goals in the 14th minute after a brilliant passing move from the USA. The hooter blew a minute later with the USA leading the match 2-0 and trailing 5-3 on aggregate.
 
Loose balls and carelessness in possession cost India dear in the first quarter and it was more of the same in the second. Five minutes in, Alyssa Parker finished a shot from Danielle Grega to make it 3-0 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate.
 
India forced a penalty corner after that. It was a scrambled affair which the USA cleared with ease. They were hardly able to hold on to possession as the USA dominated the midfield. The next few minutes of the match were a messy affair with both teams getting green cards and India also collecting a yellow.
 
Just two minutes before the half time hooter went off, Magadan scored her second of the night to complete the USA's extraordinary comeback.
 
Final score: India 1-4 USA (6-5 aggregate)
 
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Visakha Express rolls with AC coaches, leaves behind other bogies

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A major train mishap was averted after a few bogies of the Bhubaneswar-Secunderabad Visakha Express got detached from its engine in Odisha on Saturday.
 
The incident occurred minutes after the train left the Balugaon railway station in Khurda district. The engine rolled with the AC coaches and left behind all the other bogies. Fortunately, no passenger was injured in the incident.
 
The train was on its way from Bhubaneswar when the bogies decoupled from the engine.
 
"The train decoupled between the AC 2-tier and the S-1 coach. It appears that there was a defect in a particular locking arrangement joining the two coaches. After recoupling, the train resumed service at around 11 a.m.," the East Coast Railway (ECoR) said in a statement.
 
The train went through several periodic checks after the incident. It will be checked again at Brahmapur and Visakhapatnam. The train is being escorted by coach repairing staff, ECoR added.
 
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Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: Indian men beat Russia 4-2, women USA 5-1

 
Indian hockey teams, men and women, virtually assured themselves of Olympic places as they chalked out contrasting wins over Russia and the United States at the Kalinga Stadium here on Friday.
 
Indian men beat Russia 4-2 while women outplayed the USA 5-1 in their respective first leg matches.
 
With the home advantage and sitting fully 17 places above Russia in the FIH World Rankings, it came as little surprise that India's men started this contest as heavy favourites. 
 
However, it proved to be far from straightforward for the hosts, who were made to dig deep to secure a 4-2 victory against an opponent that gave a terrific account of themselves. India took the lead in the first quarter thanks to a penalty stroke from Harmanpreet Singh after team captain Manpreet Singh had been fouled, but Russia hit back when an overhead pass was collected and emphatically dispatched by Andrey Kuraev.
 
Russia had good chances to move ahead before Mandeep Singh put India into a 2-1 lead at half time. Fourth-quarter goals from S V Sunil and a second for Mandeep gave the hosts a 4-1 advantage, but Semen Matkovskiy’s late penalty corner keeps Russia’s interest in this two-legged qualifier very much alive.
 
Talking to media persons after the match Indian coach Graham Reid said  "I am not surprised with the Russian performance. They came out and played very well. Full credit to them. The world rankings systems, it looks like they are 22 in the world. But they are a really good team. That's what I have been telling all along. They had no pressure, went in as the underdog.
 
He, however, was candid in his admission, saying, "I was disappointed with the way our boys played. I have spoken to them about that. Hopefully, there will be a reaction tomorrow. We can show everyone tomorrow how well we can play. I just asked them, who can play better tomorrow? Of course, they all put their hands up. They will have their opportunity to show us how well they can play. 
 
"We needed to get the ball into the midfield today. We did not get enough play through the midfield. It gets very difficult to get flow when those connections are missing," he added.
 
Earlier, the Indian women outwitted the USA to emerge 5-1 winner. It was the Americans who were largely dominant in the first two quarters of the match. However, the  Indians  found themselves ahead at the break when Lilima Minz scored from an improvised penalty corner. While the hosts were perhaps fortunate to have the half-time lead, the quality of their performance in the third and fourth quarters ensured that they were fully deserving winners of this contest.  
 
Sharmila Devi, Gurjit Kaur (2) and Navneet Kaur all found the target as India dominated the proceedings before Erin Matson's late consolation goal gave the USA a small glimmer of hope going into tomorrow’s second leg.
 
After the win, Indian coach Sjoerd Marijne said, "I think in the first 28 minutes, we struggled with nerves, We lost the ball too fast. We gave them too many opportunities. Luckily they didn't make it, otherwise, the match would have been different. 
 
"Making use of opportunities is a quality, which we did pretty well today. You could see the nerves were gone and we played to our potential. 
 
"We were up 5-0 and wanted to keep that score. But we fell back a bit too much and need to improve on that tomorrow. The  girls were happy with the result but not extremely excited. They know we have to play to our potential," he said.
 
 
He, however,  dismissed a query about whether the Indian women had assured themselves of a place in the Olympics. "No, absolutely not. You know how the process can go. You don't get a ticket to Tokyo today. You can get it tomorrow. You have nothing so far."
 
"I think we were very effective. You cannot expect that always to happen. We are happy today but  not sure it would happen again tomorrow."
 
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Men's Hockey: India overcome Russian challenge in 1st leg of Olympic qualifiers

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The Indian men's hockey team inched closer to sealing their berth in the 2020 Tokyo Games after they beat Russia 4-2 in the first leg of their Olympic qualifiers at the Kalinga stadium here on Saturday. The second and final leg will be held on Saturday.
 
The goal difference could have been higher had it not been for three spectacular saves made by Russian goalkeeper Marat Gafarov in the dying minutes of the match. Gafarov also saved a few penalty corners awarded to the hosts.
 
India were the outright favourites against 22nd-ranked Russia before the match started. But complacency was the buzzword going around the Indian camp ahead of the clash, although coach Graham Reid had said that it was more about focussing on the basics. In the previous match between the two sides, India had beaten Russia 10-0.
 
India took an early lead thanks to a penalty stroke from Harmanpreet Singh in the fifth minute. Fans at the Kalinga stadium would have started to expect another goal feast at that point but the Russians pegged the hosts back with some well-constructed moves on the other side of the pitch.
 
Russia forced a few good saves from P. R. Sreejesh before their enterprise finally bore fruit in the 17th minute. Rupinder Singh was caught napping by an overhead pass which was calmly slotted into the goal by Andrey Kuraev.
 
India were struggling to find their rhythm until then and the goal seemed to give them some much-needed impetus as Mandeep Singh put India in the lead again with six minutes to go in the first half.
 
India had only one more shot than Russia in the first half and made 10 circle penetrations as opposed to their opponents' six.
 
India came out with a more fluid approach in the second half and goals from S. V. Sunil (48th minute) and Mandeep Singh (53rd minute) made the scoreline look like what was expected before the match. However, the Russians did not take their foot off the pedal.
 
Semen Matkovskiy managed to convert one of the seven shots the away side managed in the second half to reduce the deficit in the final minute of the match.
 
Gafarov then did his bit to ensure that the second leg does not become a formality, making three fine saves to check India from swelling the lead.
 
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India thrash USA 5-1 to put one foot in Olympics

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The India women's hockey team put one foot in the Tokyo Olympics next year by registering a 5-1 victory over the United States in a qualifier first-leg clash at the Kalinga Stadium here on Friday.
 
India scored four goals in 11 minutes after half-time to kill the tie as Gurjeet Kaur scored a brace.
 
Erin Matson scored a consolation goal for the USA in the 54th minute from a penalty stroke and the 13th-ranked away side got a host of chances to reduce the deficit in the dying minutes but it was not enough. In the end the hosts took a huge step towards the Tokyo Olympics.
 
In the second leg on Saturday, the USA will need a miracle to harbour any hopes of making the Olympics cut.
 
India began with a high-press but the USA were sharp in creating chances and getting its shots away.
 
Early in the second quarter, India got their first clear-cut chance when Lalremsiami hit a cross from the left towards an onrushing Sharmila at the far post. However, the winger was unable to get on the end of the cross and the USA had a lucky escape.
 
The USA earned a lot of penalty corners but the Indian defence stood firm before, completely against the run of play, India took the lead in the 29th minute.
 
The hosts won back to back penalty corners and Sharmila worked the ball away to Neha Goyal on the baseline, who then did brilliantly to fend off her marker and pass the ball to Lilima Minz, who stabbed home from close.
 
India led 1-0 at halftime. The script took a turn for the worse for the visitors in the second period as India scored two more goals in quick succession.
 
First, Vandana played a one-two on the left to put Sharmila Devi in the clear who then deflected the ball into the goal to double India's lead in the 40th minute.
 
Two minutes later, Gurjit sounded the board in her fourth attempt as India started pulling away.
 
In the fourth quarter, they became more dominant and threatened to score from almost every foray. In the 46th minute, Salima Tete burst into the out circle to put Navneet Kaur through and the latter smashed home from the edge of the circle to make it 4-0. India made it five goals in their favour when Gurjit scored her second from a penalty stroke.
 
Matson scored one from a penalty stroke too for the USA but it was scant consolation for them as they failed to find more goals in the remaining eight minutes.
 
The team with the highest number of goals over the two matches will qualify for the Olympics. If both the teams are tied on goals after the second-leg, then there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.
 
The ninth-ranked Indian women's team beat the USA only once in their past ten encounters. The victory came in July, 2016 in the tri-series involving India, USA and Canada.
 
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Odisha: 7-month fishing ban to protect Olive Ridley turtles

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The Odisha government on Friday imposed a seven-month ban on fishing within 20 kms of the mouths of Dhamara, Devi and Rushikulya rivers for protecting the nests of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles.
 
The ban will be in force till May 31, 2020.
 
The ban has been imposed on sea fishing under the provisions of the Odisha Marine Fishing Regulation Act (OMFRA), 1982 and provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
 
Use of motor boats, trawlers and mechanised fishing boats has been prohibited along the stretch of Dhamra-Devi-Rushikulya river mouths to protect the endangered turtles, said a forest official.
 
The Olive Ridley sea turtles come to Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapara district, Devi river mouth in Puri district, and Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district to lay eggs every year.
 
The endangered turtles arrive every year during winter for mass nesting. They lay eggs in March following mating and the hatchlings come out by May.
 
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Hockey: Confident Indian Men's and Women's teams aim to qualify for Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

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India will look to book its berths in both men's and women's hockey competition of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 when they play in the double-leg Olympic Qualifiers on November 1 and 2 at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium here.
 
World No. 5 Indian Men's Team are scheduled to play World No. 22 Russia, while the World No. 9 Women's Team will face tough competition from World No. 13 USA.
 
The winners of the Qualifiers will make it to the next year's Olympic Games. Both the Indian teams were drawn at home against their respective opponents due to their higher ranking. The men's team will be facing Russia only for the third time since 2008, with the previous two encounters seeing the hosts register huge victories (8-0 in a Round-Robin match of the World Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in 2008; and 10-0 in the Pool A match of the FIH Men's Series Finals held here earlier this year).
 
Speaking ahead of the two matches, Men's Team's captain Manpreet  said, "We are well-prepared for this tournament. We are not concerned about the disparity in the world ranking. For us, every match we play is like we are playing against World Champions. We have suffered in the past due to over-confidence and we will not let that happen this time." 
 
Russian team coach Vladimir Konkin, on the other hand, said, "We are ranked lower than India but in our hearts and in our mind, we are ranked higher and we will really fight till the last minute. We are definitely prepared to play better than what we did during the FIH Series Final." 
 
Meanwhile, the Women's Team have played their opponents USA on eight occasions since 2014, registering one win which came in the Test Matches held in 2016.  India ended up on the losing side on six occasions but the vast improvement in the team saw India play a 1-1 draw in their Pool B match of the  World Cup last year.
 
Chief coach Sjoerd Marijne spoke highly of his current side, and said that they are ready for the test. "We are really excited to play. These are the two matches we have looked forward to and worked on for a whole year. We are ready for the challenge," stated the Dutchman. 
 
Skipper Rani further added, "After missing out on qualifying at the Asian Games, we decided to shift our focus on to the Olympic Qualifiers. Regardless of who our opponent would be, we trained the entire year for these two matches and now we are looking forward to bring our best."
 
Kathleen Sharkey, USA captain, stated: "I have seen India improve over the years and every match we have played against them, it has been close and the fight is intense. We are expecting a good challenge from them. These past few days here have been good for us to get used to the weather."
 
The winners will be determined as follows: teams will be ranked according to the number of points each has accumulated in both matches (for each match, 3 points are awarded to the winner, 1 point to each team in the event of a draw and 0 point to the loser). If there is equality among the two teams, then the teams will be ranked according to their respective goal difference.
 
If the equality remains, a shoot-out competition will be played to establish the winner. Therefore, the objective of both the Indian  Teams will be to secure direct qualification for the Tokyo 2020 hockey tournaments - which will be staged from 25 July to 7 August next year and involve 12 Men’s and 12 Women’s teams.
 
NNN
 

(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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