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Hoax call from 'India' triggers bomb scare in Pakistan

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Afghanistan create historic with series win in Zimbabwe

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Megastorm Patricia inflicts little damage on Mexican coast

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Ranji Trophy: Gambhir fined 70 percent, Tiwary docked 40 percent of fees

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Gambhir was fined 70 percent of his match fees while Manoj Tiwary copped a penalty of 40 percent for their on-field altercation during the Ranji Trophy match.

Syrian rebels reject Russian help against ISIS, new elections

BEIRUT: Syria’s western-backed opposition on Saturday rejected a Russian offer to assist them against the Islamic State jihadist group and dismissed Moscow’s call for new elections.

“Russia is bombing the Free Syrian Army and now it wants to cooperate with us, while it remains committed to Assad? We don’t understand Russia at all!” said Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad Saoud, a spokesman for the Division 13 rebel group.

Moscow began an aerial campaign in Syria on September 30, saying it was targeting the Islamic State group and other “terrorists”.

But moderate and Islamist rebels say they have been the target of Moscow’s strikes, and that the campaign is intended to prop up President Bashar al-Assad’s regime rather than eradicate IS.

Samir Nashar, a member of the Syrian National Coalition, the opposition’s main political body, was equally dismissive of an alliance between moderate rebels and Russia.

“Instead of talking about their willingness to support the Free Syrian Army, they should stop bombing it,” he told AFP.

“Eighty per cent of the Russian strikes are targeting the FSA.”

The comments came after Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday that Moscow was ready to support Syria’s “patriotic opposition, including the so-called Free Syrian Army, from the air”.

“The main thing for us is to approach the people fully in charge of representing these or those armed groups fighting terrorism among other things,” he told Rossiya 1 television station.

Lavrov also told the station that he hoped to see political progress in Syria and a move toward new elections.

“I am convinced that most serious politicians have learned their lessons and with regards to Syria a correct understanding of the situation is developing,” he said.

“This gives us hope that the political process will move forward in the foreseeable future, by using outside players, to have all Syrians sit at the negotiating table.”

“Of course, it’s necessary to prepare for both parliamentary and presidential polls,” he added.

Nashar said the proposal of new elections now was absurd and accused Moscow of trying “to circumvent the demands of the Syrian people for Assad’s departure”.

“The Russians are ignoring the real facts on the ground, with millions who have been displaced inside and outside Syria, where cities are destroyed every day,” he said.

“What elections are they talking about holding under such circumstances?”

Syria last held presidential elections in June 2014, with Assad re-elected for a seven-year term with 88.7 per cent of the vote.

The election was dismissed by the opposition and condemned internationally.

The country last held parliamentary elections in May 2012, and it is in theory due to hold its next legislative vote in 2016.

Sarvate’s six hit Assam hard

NAGPUR: It’s always good to have fans, even if they are few in number. They make the player feel special. Their presence tells a player ‘we trust on your abilities and we will be right behind no matter what happens to you’. Aditya Sarvate’s friends came with a banner which read ‘Aditya Sarvate Fan Club. Go Vidarbha’.

The 25-year-old Vidarbha allrounder, who has made his First Class debut, didn’t disappoint them and walked away with second best figures in an innings by a debutant for Vidarbha. His 6-64 — which is only behind legendary Mohd Siddique’s figures of 6-40 against MP in 1963-64 — has put Vidarbha team to a position, where they can force an outright victory against Assam in their Ranji Trophy Group ‘A’ tie on Saturday.

It was a creditable performance by Sarvate considering the Jamtha wicket — which was doing all sorts of funny things on Friday — wasn’t showing the same venom and had eased out considerably. All 10 wickets fell to spinners as Assam were bowled out for 160 in their second innings, giving Vidarbha the target of 213 for a win. Vidarbha openers — Wasim Jaffer (43, 75b, 4×4) and Faiz Fazal (38, 111b, 3×4) have knocked off 88 out of it and the hosts need another 125 on the last day with all their wickets intact.

While Sarvate picked up six wickets, off spinner Akshay Wakhare’s contribution can’t be undermined. He was relentless with his line and length and put pressure besides picking four wickets. His figures of 34.3-15-37-4 themselves tell the story how well this tall offie had bowled. There were hardly any loose balls for Assam batsmen and he created doubts in their minds with variation in his pace. Wakhare was waiting for the pitch to play its part instead of attempting too many variations too soon and was right on the money. The fact that Assam batsmen hardly attempted sweep shots and used their feet also helped Vidarbha spinners.

Amit Verma (27, 130b, 1×6) looked most compact batsmen in the Assam ranks as others either rushed things or bogged down to Vidarbha spinners. Once KB Arun Karthick departed, Vidarbha never allowed Assam to come back. The 43-run seventh wicket stand between Swarupam Purkayastha (35) and Tarjinder Singh (22) threatened for a while but once the former departed, other lower order batsmen didn’t trouble Vidarbha much.

Vidarbha openers showed their positive intent which is sometimes necessary in these kinds of wicket. Both Jaffer and Faiz rotated the strike well and hit some glorious shots. Unlike Vidarbha spinners, who bowled tight line and never allowed Assam batsmen to break free, Assam bowlers couldn’t do the same. With 125 to get, the game is still wide open. Assam would like to remember how Vidarbha innings collapsed from 80-1 to 101-6 in the first innings. Vidarbha, on the other hand, would want to correct their first innings mistakes.

SCOREBOARD

Assam (1st Innings) 206.

Vidarbha (1st Innings) 154.

Assam (2nd Innings; overnight 36-2): G Sharma c Sharma b A Wakhare 16, A Verma c Fazal b A Wakhare 28, KB Arun Karthick c Jaffer b A Sarvate 11, T Singh c J Sharma b A Sarvate 22, JS Mohammed c Shanware b A Sarvate 2, S Purkayastha c Jaffer b A Sarvate 35, K Saikia c A Shanware b A Wakhare 3, A Das not out 0, K Das c A Shanware b A Wakhare 9.

Extras: (b 6, lb 4, nb 1, w 1) 12.

Total: (All out; 81.3 overs) 160.

Fall of wickets: 1-27, 2-30, 3-60, 4-81, 5-88, 6-91, 7-134, 8-143, 9-147.

Bowling: U Yadav 9-1-32-0, F Fazal 1-0-7-0, A Wakhare 34.3-15-37-4, A Sarvate 33-7-64-6, S Ruikar 4-0-10-0.

Vidarbha (2nd Innings): F Fazal batting 38, W Jaffer batting 43.

Extras: (b 1, lb 6) 7.

Total: (no loss; 31 overs) 88.

Bowling: K Das 5-3-7-0, S Purkayastha 11-2-30-0, JS Mohammed 7-0-16-0, A Verma 5-0-19-0, G Sharma 3-1-9-0.

Israel, Jordan working to ease holy site tensions, John Kerry says

US secretary of state John Kerry said on Saturday that Israel and Jordan have agreed on steps aimed at reducing tensions at a holy site in Jerusalem that have fanned Israeli-Palestinian violence.

“All the violence and the incitement to violence must stop. Leaders must lead,” Kerry told reporters in the Jordanian capital after meeting with King Abdullah II and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The top US diplomat said the steps include round-the-clock video monitoring and Israel’s reaffirming of Jordan’s special and historic role as custodian of the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif.

The king suggested the monitoring, according to Kerry, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted.

Israel has pledged to maintain the rules of worship at the site, and Israeli and Jordanian authorities will meet about bolstering security, Kerry said.

Netanyahu’s office had no immediate comment. The US and Jordan expected him to talk about the situation late Saturday night.

Kerry, who met with Netanyahu in Berlin on Thursday, said the leaders “expressed their strong commitment to ending the violence and restoring the calm as soon as possible.”

“I hope that based on these conversations we can finally put to rest some of the false assumptions, perceptions” about the holy site, Kerry said. “Those perceptions are stoking the tensions and fueling the violence and it is important for us to end the provocative rhetoric and start to change the public narrative that comes out of those false perceptions.”

Outlining the series of understandings, Kerry said:

– Israel “fully respects” Jordan’s “special role” as custodian of the site.

– Israel will continue to enforce its policy of religious worship, including “the fundamental fact” that it is Muslims who pray there and non-Muslims who visit.

– Israel has no intention of dividing the site and rejects any attempt to suggest otherwise.

– Israel welcomes increased coordination between Israeli authorities and Jordan to ensure that visitors and worshippers “demonstrate respect and restraint.”

Noting the video monitoring, Kerry said it would provide “comprehensive visibility and transparency, and that could really be a game changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of this holy site.”

On Friday, Israel lifted restrictions on Muslim worshippers after having barred younger Muslim men – seen by police as the main potential trouble-makers – from entering the compound on Fridays, the main day of prayer in the Muslim religious week.

The bans had, at times, targeted men up to the age of 50 and fuelled Palestinian fears that Israel was trying to change long-standing understandings under which Jews are allowed to visit, but not pray, at the shrine.

Those fears have also been fuelled by a rise in visits to the shrine by Jewish activists demanding prayer rights, including senior members of Netanyahu’s coalition government.

Israel has repeatedly denied Palestinian allegations that it is trying to change the status quo and accused Palestinian political and religious leaders of lying and inciting to violence.

In the meetings with Abdullah, Abbas and Jordanian foreign minister Nasser Judeh, and earlier with Netanyahu, Kerry explored ways to address the violence that began in mid-September initially at the shrine, but has spread to the rest of Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank and Gaza strip.

In the past five weeks, 10 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings, while 49 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 28 said by Israel to be attackers and the rest in clashes.

On Saturday, Israeli forces shot a knife-wielding Palestinian dead after he ran toward a crossing between Israel and the West Bank and tried to stab security personnel, the Israeli military said.

Describing what he has heard in the talks with the leaders, Kerry said that “all of them expressed their strong commitment to ending the violence and restoring the calm as soon as possible.”

He said the US “strongly condemns terrorist attacks against innocent civilians. There is absolutely no justification for these reprehensible attacks.”

He added: “It is important to stop the back and forth of language that gives anybody an excuse to somehow be misinterpreted or misguided into believing that violence is a viable option.”

Judeh, the Jordanian foreign minister, acknowledged the difficulty of settling the region’s entrenched problems, but said, “I think with our collective will and efforts we can certainly overcome what may be perceived as insurmountable difficulties. Everything is resolvable.”

Patient Sarvate gets his due

NAGPUR: It was in early nineties when Anand Sarvate went for a family trip to Mumbai. Never did he realize that this trip would change his life forever. Anand — a decent cricketer and played also represented the Nagpur University —met with an accident and had a severe brain injury and never recovered after that. While Anand might have suffered a lot in these years, his son Aditya has always been a big joy for him and wife Anushree, who went through a lot of hardships to bring him up.

Nothing has come easy to Aditya. He has to wait for his First Class debut for a while despite consistent performances at Under-22, Under-23 and Under-25 level, since Vidarbha were a settled squad for the last four-five years. However, he was patient and waited for his opportunities. Finally, his perseverance has paid off. He couldn’t have dreamt of a better debut than this. His 6-64 against Assam in the ongoing Ranji Trophy tie is the second best figures in an innings by a debutant for Vidarbha. More importantly, his efforts have given his team a chance to register an outright victory.

Considering he is a batting allrounder, this performance is all the more creditable.

“He is one of the most committed cricketers I have seen. He has made his parents proud today. I am sure they will be very happy. His father was a decent cricketer himself. We have played together. He has a long way to go but it’s a good start to his career,” VCA’s joint secrteray Sharad Padhye told TOI. Aditya plays local cricket for Padhye’s Club Navniketan.

Aditya has been backbone of Vidarbha Colts over the years. He might not have great seasons with Under-19 but he raised his game and became one of the vital cogs of Vidarbha Colts’ batting. “I think this wait has made him hungrier. What stands out is his consistency. If he doesn’t perform with the bat, he does the job with the ball. He always works on his game strives to be better. Hope he does well for Vidarbha in future as well,” his mentor Pravin Hinganikar said.

Aditya came close to selection a couple of years ago but missed out, although he made it to the Vidarbha squad for Twenty20 tournament. Last year, he had fitness issues and he remained injured in trials of all the formats. This year, however, has been different. He regained his fitness and form in Dorairajan Trophy, had a decent outing in All India KSCA tournament, where he scored an unbeaten hundred. Then came Bapuna Cup where he bagged the Man of the tournament, Best Bowler and twin Man of the Match awards.

He forced the Vidarbha selectors to give him a chance and now he has grabbed it with both hands. The path will only become difficult for Aditya but he has made a positive start.

Ban condemns terror attacks in Pakistan during Muharram

PTI | Oct 24, 2015, 10.33 PM IST

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the attacks in Pakistan on Shia processions marking Ashura that have claimed 36 lives in the last two days.

“The Secretary-General reiterates that nothing justifies terrorism. He urges the Government of Pakistan to take all necessary measures to bring to justice the perpetrators of these despicable acts and to do its utmost to protect its citizens, including all minorities,” a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York said.

The statement added that the attacks yesterday were carried out during the holy month of Muharram and have claimed many lives, including many children.

The Secretary-General extended his condolences to the families of the victims and wishes the injured a swift recovery.

At least 24 people, including four children, were killed and 40 others injured yesterday in a suicide attack on a Muharram procession by minority Shias in Pakistan’s Sindh province.

The blast took place despite stringent security measures put in place for the Ashura processions taken out on the 9th and 10th of Muharram by Shia Muslims.

In another attack on Thursday, 12 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shia shrine in Balochistan.

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Gautam Gambhir and his on-field spats

Why does Gautam Gambhir get angry?

That’s the question troubling everyone after the former India opener made headlines for his involvement in yet another on-field altercation with an opponent.

Gambhir, 34, has a history of losing cool and becoming party to ugly exchanges and has been reprimanded and fined on several occasions for his behaviour. On Saturday, against Bengal in a Ranji Trophy match, he almost came close to exchanging blows with his opposite number Manoj Tiwary at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in Delhi.

Here TOI takes a look at the incidents in the past where Gambhir lost his temperament on the cricket field.

Gambhir-Afridi, Kanpur 2007

It was the third ODI at Kanpur during Pakistan’s tour of India in 2007. Shahid Afridi was bowling to Gambhir and after the left-hander had just hit him for a four. Off the next delivery, as Gambhir ran a single, the duo collided. What followed was a heated argument – the video of which can be easily found on Youtube – in which they both can be heard using quite a ‘colourful language’. As a result of the incident, the referee Roshan Mahanama fined both Afridi and Gambhir 95% and 65% of their match fees respectively.

Gambhir-Watson, Delhi 2008

Next on our list is from the 2008 Border-Gavaskar Trophy. During the first day of the Delhi Test, Gambhir elbowed Watson while taking a second run during the 51st over. This happened after the two had verbal clashes earlier in the day. Gambhir, who claimed he had accidentally stuck his elbow, was charged with a level two offence and banned for one Test. Watson was fined 10% of his match fees. Gambhir scored a double-century during that innings.

Gambhir-Kohli, Bangalore 2013

During a league match of the sixth edition of IPL between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders, Gambhir and Virat Kohli hurled abuses at each other while charging towards each other after the latter’s dismissal. This happened during the 10th over of RCB innings after was caught off Lakshmipathy Balaji for 35. KKR’s Rajat Bhatia came in between and tried calming Gambhir down. The duo escaped with a warning.

Gambhir-Shardul, Cuttack 2015

Delhi lost to Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy 2014-15 quarterfinal at Cuttack. One of the highlights of the clash was the engrossing battle between pacer Shardul Thakur and Gambhir. Thakur was the in-form bowler and so Delhi chose to attack him while chasing 441. Led by their skipper, Delhi succeeded in removing him from the attack after scoring few boundaries off him but Thakur returned and trapped Gambhir for 34. Thakur then proceeded to let slip some words directed at the departing batsman but angered by the comments, he turned towards the bowler with a raised bat. Thakur was later reprimanded for his behaviour and fined 50% of his match fees. Gambhir walked scot-free.

Gambhir-Tiwary, Delhi 2015

Gambhir and Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary came close to exchanging blows during their Ranj Trophy match at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium. After Bengal had lost their second wicket in the sevent over of the final session of the third day’s play in their second innings, Tiwary walked in with a cap on to face spinner Manan Sharma. He left after taking guard to change his cap for a helmet with a pacer operating from the other end. When he returned, Gambhir angered by his ‘time-wasting’ tactic said, “Meet me in the evening and I will hit you.” Tiwary replied “Don’t wait till evening, let’s go out now and settle it.”After this, the verbal-exchange turned ugly with the duo storming towards each other. Umpire K Srinath came running from the bowler’s end to intervene. However, Gambhir tried pushing him out of his way. DDCA later in the evening fined him 50% match fees.