India v England: Zak Crawley says winning final Test would cap ‘unbelievable’ winter


Crawley averages 37.16 from 11 Tests

Victory over India in the final Test would cap an “unbelievable” winter for England, says opener Zak Crawley.

England trail 2-1 heading into the fourth Test in Ahmedabad – which starts on Thursday – having beaten Sri Lanka 2-0 in January.

India thrashed England by 10 wickets inside two days in a low-scoring third Test last week.

“There’s definitely a way back. We’re only one game down,” said 23-year-old Crawley.

“We still have loads of confidence in our ability.

“It’s an unbelievable winter if we can pull off wins in four out of the six Tests.”

England won the first Test by 227 runs before losing the second by 317, with both games played in Chennai.

They were bowled out for 112 and 81 in Ahmedabad as they failed to reach 200 for the fifth consecutive innings.

Although India collapsed to 145 all out on the second morning, they chased 49 to complete victory shortly into the final session.

“They’ve got great players in their side and they’ve struggled for runs as well,” said Crawley.

“It’s not like they’re scoring millions and we’re scoring none. It’s been a pretty low-scoring encounter, especially in the last game.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan said England batted “like rabbits in headlights” after they were dismissed in 49 overs on the first day in Ahmedabad despite Crawley’s 53.

The Kent batsman was bowled first ball of the second innings by slow left-armer Axar Patel, who shared 18 wickets in the match with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. They have a combined 42 wickets in the series.

Crawley suggested England may change their approach with the bat in the final Test.

“If the pitch looks like it’s going to be just as tricky and plays the same way, with one skidding and one turning, then perhaps we need to be a bit more proactive,” he said.

Meanwhile, England captain Joe Root says he expects to have a full squad to select from in Ahmedabad despite some sickness among the touring party.

Everyone was able to train on Tuesday even though several members of the squad and some coaching staff have been ill with stomach issues unrelated to Covid.

England are expected to recall spinner Dom Bess on Thursday for a game they have to win.

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Crude oil prices could come under short-term pressure


There are unmistakable indications that the relentless rise in crude oil prices — especially seen in February — may be ending at least for the time-being.

On the one hand, major producers represented by OPEC+ adhered to the output cuts agreed upon and the US shale output was impacted by freezing cold.

On the other, demand received a boost with easing of lockdown restrictions. Investors waiting for such an opportunity increased their net long positions in the market.

The current week is expected to be a crucial time for the energy market as OPEC+ is scheduled to meet on Thursday to chalk out the future course of action in terms of the alliance’s strategy.

Already Brent has declined by $3 to $63 a barrel, while WTI has gone below the psychological $60-a-barrel level. In other words, much of the positive news so far has already been priced-in, while supply-demand expectations in the second and third quarters are sure to weigh in on the group’s discussion.

OPEC’s output

A major trigger for the February rally was lower production by OPEC to the extent of 8,70,000 barrels a day led of Saudi Arabia; but some producers cut production smaller than agreed. There is now expectation that many producers in the alliance would step up production in the months ahead. In the event, nothing can prevent Saudi Arabia to ramp up output. Russia, too, will produce more.

In the event, as much as 1.3 million barrels a day additional oil can come into the market in April. In the US, oil rig count has now crossed 300 and shale output is expected to be ramped up to take advantage of the lucrative prices. Norway, too, is raising its oil output.

Price outlook

At the same time, although improving, demand conditions are still fragile, especially in the western economies. All this will have an unsettling effect on the market. By implication, crude oil prices will be capped to the upside in the short-term. Financial investors holding long positions will, of course, be watching this market for signs that may suggest it’s time to exit.

Any decline in crude oil will be good news for India whose dependence on imported crude is at an alarmingly high 80 per cent. Rising petroleum and diesel prices have fanned inflationary tendencies in the country with hapless consumers the worst sufferers.

Brent crude could trade in the $58-62 a barrel range over the next 2-3 months, on current reckoning, providing a small relief to importing countries.

The author is a policy commentator and commodities market specialist. Views are personal

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Govt nets Rs 77,815 crore in spectrum auction; Jio top buyer with Rs 57,122 crore


Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Jio cornered more than half of the telecom spectrum auctioned by the government over the past two days, offering about Rs 57,122 crore to consolidate its holding of the scarce resource that are used to carry mobile call and data signals.

Telecom giant Bharti Airtel bid Rs 18,699 crore to pick up 355.45 megahertz (MHz) out of the 855.60 MHz of radio-frequency, giving it “most formidable” spectrum holding in the country.

Jio ” has successfully acquired the right to use spectrum in all 22 circles across India in the recently concluded spectrum auctions conducted by Department of Telecommunications,’ said the telco in a statement.

Compared to Jio, rival Airtel has acquired 355.45 MHz spectrum across sub GHz, mid band and 2300 MHz bands for Rs 18,699 crore and Vodafone Idea , the least aggressive player in the 4G auctions has acquired airwaves in 5 circles for Rs 1,993.40 crore.

The operator which had earlier announced that it is 5G ready said it newly bought spectrum can be used for 5G services as well.

” RJIL’s spectrum has been acquired in the most cost efficient manner with an effective cost of Rs 60.8 crore per MHz” and ” has achieved complete spectrum derisking, with average life of owned spectrum of 15.5 years”, said the telco.

For the spectrum bought, Jio will have to make an upfront payment of Rs 19,939 crore and deferred payment of Rs 37,184 crore. As per terms of the spectrum auction, the deferred payments have to be made over a period of 18 years (2 year moratorium plus 16 year repayment period), with interest computed at 7.3% per annum.

Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (“RJIL”) announced that it has successfully acquired the right to use spectrum in all 22 circles across India in the recently concluded spectrum auctions conducted by Department of Telecommunications, Government of India.

Circle wise details of spectrum acquired are provided in the following table:

Agencies



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Jack Ma loses title as China’s richest man after coming under Beijing’s scrutiny


Ma and his family had held the top spot for China’s richest in the Hurun Global Rich List in 2020 and 2019 but now trail in fourth place.

Alibaba and Ant Group founder Jack Ma has lost the title of China’s richest man, a list published on March 2 showed, as his peers prospered while his empire was put under heavy scrutiny by Chinese regulators.

Ma and his family had held the top spot for China’s richest in the Hurun Global Rich List in 2020 and 2019 but now trail in fourth place behind bottled water maker Nongfu Spring’s Zhong Shanshan, Tencent Holding’s Pony Ma and e-commerce upstart Pinduoduo’s Collin Huang, the latest list showed

Ma’s recent woes were triggered by an October 23 speech in which he blasted China’s regulatory system, leading to the suspension of his Ant Group’s $37 billion IPO just days before the fintech giant’s public listing.

Regulators have since tightened anti-trust scrutiny on the country’s tech sector, with Alibaba taking much of the heat; the market regulator launched an official anti-trust probe into Alibaba in December.

Chinese regulators also began to tighten their grip on the fintech sector and have asked Ant to fold some of its businesses into a financial holding company to be regulated like traditional financial firms.

Ma, who is not known for shying away from the limelight, then disappeared from the public eye for about three months, triggering frenzied speculation about his whereabouts. He re-emerged in January with a 50-second video appearance.

China’s current richest man, Zhong, made his first appearance at the top spot largely thanks to the share price performances of Nongfu Spring and vaccine maker Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise, which he also controls.

Tencent’s Ma saw his wealth swell 70% over the year to 480 billion yuan while Pinduoduo’s Huang’s fortune grew 283% to 450 billion yuan, the list said. In comparison, the wealth of Ma and his family grew 22%, to 360 billion yuan.

Zhang Yiming, founder of TikTok owner ByteDance, broke into the top five rankings among Chinese billionaires in Hurun’sGlobal Rich List for the first time, with an estimated personal wealth of $54 billion.

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Narendra Modi: Agri reforms aimed at last-mile delivery in a time-bound and efficient manner: PM Modi


Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said there is a need for more involvement of the private sector in research and development in agriculture, establishment of agro-industry clusters near villages and encouraging startups in the field to use the latest methods for the benefit of small farmers.

Participating in a webinar on provisions in the budget for agriculture and farmer welfare, Modi said the reforms in this sector should have been ushered in some decades back and the country should move ahead without delay in post-harvest value addition like food processing to improve the profits of farmers. The expansion in this sector should help the country make a mark in the global market.

The PM said his government aims at empowering the 12 crore small farmers in the country and the agriculture reforms are aimed at last-mile delivery in a time-bound and efficient manner while taking all segments along. Centre-state relations and public-private partnerships are crucial in this endeavour.

Though Modi did not mention the three farm laws in his address, he defended them throughout and said the country must move on to improve the condition of farmers. He maintained that the previous governments had focused only on agriculture productivity and not paid much attention to the demands of the 21st Century. Underlining that there is a need to move fast, he said dairying is one example where processing and cooperatives have helped in getting a good price for the farmer.

Modi emphasised on developing processing in all agriculture sectors like foodgrain, fruit, vegetables and fisheries, as well as establishing modern storage facilities near villages. He said farmer producer organisations (FPOs) can play a vital role in taking the produce from the farm to the factory.



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Above normal summer temperatures likely across country except South, central India


New Delhi: Day temperatures are likely to be above normal in north, northeast, parts of east and west India, the India Meteorological Department said Monday in its summer forecast for March to May.

However, it has forecast a likelihood of below normal temperatures in south and adjoining central India.

 

“During the upcoming hot weather season (March to May), above normal seasonal maximum temperatures are likely over most of the subdivisions of north, northwest and northeast India, few subdivisions from eastern and western parts of central India and few coastal subdivisions of north peninsular India.”

“However, below normal seasonal maximum temperatures are likely over most of the subdivisions of south peninsula and adjoining central India,” it added.

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TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu detained at Tirupati airport, stages sit-in protest


The Telugu Desam Party chief sat down on the airport lounge floor and demanded to know why he was being prevented from going to Tirupati and Chittoor.

Former Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party’s (TDP) national President N. Chandrababu Naidu was denied permission from entering the city and detained at the Renigunta airport here on March 1 as he arrived.

Mr. Naidu was scheduled to attend two protest dharnas, one at Gandhi statue in Tirupati and the other at Gandhi Circle in Chittoor city, against the ruling party’s alleged high-handed attitude in cracking down on Opposition party leaders.

The Tirupati dharna was to show resentment over the manner in which the ruling YSR Congress government had allegedly misused its official machinery to pull down a tea kiosk belonging to a TDP worker situated in front of a leading cinema theatre, dubbing it an ‘encroachment’.

Squatting in the airport lobby, Mr. Naidu flayed the officials of acting at the behest of the ruling party and sought to know if it was appropriate for an Opposition leader who had served as the Chief Minister for three terms to be treated this way by the police department. He refused to leave the spot and insisted on meeting the Collector and Superintendent of Police.

Meanwhile, Superintendent of Police (Tirupati Urban) Ch. Venkata Appala Naidu told the media that the department had declined permission for the dharna, citing the model code of conduct in place for the elections and the likelihood of a second wave of COVID-19 in Tirupati.

The application for organising the dharna, submitted online late on February 28 night, had to be rejected in view of the above reasons. The party leaders also did not give sufficient time to the department to act. The SP said, permission to stage dharna at Gandhi statue close to APSRTC bus station would also cause inconvenience to pilgrims visiting Tirupati and cause inconvenience for the movement of ambulances.

Earlier, TDP Tirupati parliamentary constituency in-charge G. Narasimha Yadav was arrested when he arrived at the airport to receive Mr. Naidu, while Tirupati former MLA M. Sugunamma was placed under house arrest. Several leaders were detained and brought to the Tirupati East police station to “bring the situation under control”.

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Explained: ‘Lateral entry’ into bureaucracy: reason, process, and controversy


Earlier this month, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) issued an advertisement seeking applications “from talented and motivated Indian nationals willing to contribute towards nation building” for three posts of Joint Secretary and 27 of Director in central government Departments.

These individuals, who would make a “lateral entry” into the government secretariat, would be contracted for three to five years. These posts were “unreserved”, meaning were no quotas for SCs, STs and OBCs.

What is ‘lateral entry’ into government?

NITI Aayog, in its three-year Action Agenda, and the Sectoral Group of Secretaries (SGoS) on Governance in its report submitted in February 2017, recommended the induction of personnel at middle and senior management levels in the central government. These ‘lateral entrants’ would be part of the central secretariat which in the normal course has only career bureaucrats from the All India Services/ Central Civil Services.

A Joint Secretary, appointed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), has the third highest rank (after Secretary and Additional Secretary) in a Department, and functions as administrative head of a wing in the Department. Directors are a rank below that of Joint Secretary.

What is the government’s reasoning for lateral entry?

On July 4, 2019, Minister of State for DoPT Jitendra Singh told Rajya Sabha that “Government has, from time to time, appointed some prominent persons for specific assignments in government, keeping in view their specialised knowledge and expertise in the domain area”.

In a separate response to a similar question in the same House, he said: “Lateral recruitment is aimed at achieving the twin objectives of bringing in fresh talent as well as augment the availability of manpower.”

Has the government so far made any ‘lateral entry’ appointments?

The new ad is for the second round of such recruitments. Earlier, the government had decided to appoint experts from outside the government to 10 positions of Joint Secretary in different Ministries/Departments and 40 positions at the level of Deputy Secretary/Director.

The ad for the Joint Secretary-level appointments, issued in early 2018, attracted 6,077 applications; after a selection process by the UPSC, nine individuals were recommended for appointment in nine different Ministries/Departments in 2019.

One of these individuals, Kakoli Ghosh, did not join; the rest — Amber Dubey, Rajeev Saksena, Sujit Kumar Bajpayee, Dinesh Dayanand Jagdale, Bhushan Kumar, Arun Goel, Saurabh Mishra and Suman Prasad Singh — were appointed on a three-year contract. Arun Goel resigned in December last year to return to the private sector.

Why is lateral entry sometimes criticised?

Groups representing SCs, STs and OBCs have protested the fact that there is no reservation in these appointments.

After Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted a link to the government’s notification on February 5, saying “Lateral Recruitment for Joint Secretary Level and Director Level Posts on Contract Basis. Interested candidates can apply from the 6th of February 2021 to 22nd March 2021,” Bihar Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav shot back: “You should explain whether UPSC selection procedure is failing to ensure ‘willing, motivated & talented’ candidates for ‘nation building’, or hand-picked ones are more so? Isn’t it another ploy to sideline & reduce reservations for deprived sections?”

Former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav tweeted, “BJP is opening back doors to bring its own people openly. Who cares about those candidates who are preparing for years?”

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So are these contractual appointments not open for quotas?

In a May 15, 2018 circular, the DoPT noted that “in respect of appointments to Central Government posts and services there shall be reservation for Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe/Other Backward Class candidates in temporary appointments which are to last for 45 days or more”. This was a reiteration — with OBCs added — of a circular issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs as far back as on September 24, 1968.

However, there is a reason why these posts are claimed to be “unreserved”.

As per the currently applicable “13-point roster”, there is no reservation up to three posts. File notings provided by the DoPT to The Indian Express (reported on June 14, 2019) under the RTI Act state, “In a single post cadre, reservation does not apply. Since each post to be filled under this scheme is a Single Post, reservation is not applicable.”

Each of the nine individuals appointed in 2019 was recruited as a separate appointment — had they been considered as a group of nine, there would have been at least two seats for OBCs and one seat for an SC candidate as per the Centre’s reservation rules.

Likewise in the latest advertisement, if the 27 Directors were considered as a single group, seven posts would have to be reserved for OBCs, four for SCs, one for ST, and two for EWS category, as per the 13 point roster. But as they have been advertised/ considered separately for each Department, all of them have been declared “unreserved”.

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Germany Coach Joachim Loew Opens Door To Return For Exiled Trio





Germany coach Joachim Loew opened the door Sunday to a surprise summer return for Thomas Mueller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, the trio of veteran World Cup winners he controversially exiled two years ago. “If you begin a transition, you should not reverse it and go back in the opposite direction,” Loew told public broadcaster ARD Sunday.

“But the pandemic has stolen almost a year from us, so we can think about maybe pausing the transition if it is absolutely necessary,” he added, suggesting that the trio could return for this summer’s European Championships.

A return for Mueller, Hummels or Boateng could be possible “if I am of the opinion that we need an extra percent or someone who brings a bit of energy,” said Loew. 

It is the first time that Loew has shown signs of relenting from his controversial decision to drop the three experienced stars back in 2019.

Though under pressure to give younger players a chance at the time, criticism of Loew has mounted in the two years since as Germany have struggled and the three exiled players have returned to their best form.

Recent results have been poor for Loew’s team, with a 6-0 away defeat to Spain in November a low point for the beleaguered, long-serving Germany boss.

With the rebuilding process not going as planned, Loew suggested Sunday that players like Mueller, Hummels and Boateng could be useful short-term solutions for Euro 2020.

They would be “quick to integrate because they already know exactly how things work with the national team,” he said.

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Germany launch their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign next month with games against Iceland, Romania and North Macedonia.

They are scheduled to meet France in their opening EURO 2020 group game on June 15.

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RJD eyes Bihari voters in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala


Senior RJD leaders reportedly in touch with Badruddin Ajmal of AIUDF, Assam Congress president Ripun Bora, TMC

Patna: After its resounding performance in the recently concluded Bihar polls, the RJD is eyeing Hindi-speaking voters in West Bengal, Assam and Kerala.

The RJD, which has been trying to expand its wings outside Bihar, hopes to give a tough fight to the BJP. Political analysts said that the party has been eyeing sizable “Bihari voters” in West Bengal, Assam and Kerala.

 

Talking to this newspaper, a senior RJD leader said, “Our party’s decision is based on the feedback from people who have been urging our leaders to contest in areas where Hindi speaking voters, mostly from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, stay. Our senior party leaders are already in touch with like-minded political parties in West Bengal and Assam and will make a final announcement soon”.

Reports suggest that senior RJD leaders are in touch with Badruddin Ajmal of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Congress state president Ripun Bora in Assam and Mamata Bannerjee’s TMC in West Bengal.

Political analysts are of the view that RJD’s main interest in AIUDF could be its popularity among Muslim voters in Assam.

 

On Friday, after the poll dates were announced by the Election Commission, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and the party’s national general secretary landed in Guwahati and held a series of meetings with top leaders of some regional parties. Sources said that after Assam, Mr Yadav along with other senior leaders of the RJD, will also visit Kolkata to discuss the poll related issues with political leaders.

Meanwhile, the JD(U) which is an alliance partner of the BJP in Bihar, is also gearing up to field candidates in West Bengal and Assam in the coming Assembly polls.

Sources in the JD(U) said that leaders in both the states have been asked to identify seats to contest. JD(U) national secretary Sanjay Verma is camping in Assam and the final decision regarding alliance and seats will be taken by the party leadership after the assessment of Assembly constituencies in both the states.

 

The LJP is also planning to contest the polls in West Bengal and Assam and is currently assessing its party’s position in both the states. 

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