DESI TALK CHICAGO

29 November 30, 2018 SPORTS www.desitalkchicago.com – that’s all you need to know Magnificent Mary Clinches Record 6thWorld Championship Gold -NEW DELHI ndian boxing legend M.C. Mary Kom scripted histo- ry by clinching a record sixthWorld Championship Gold medal in the light flyweight 48 kilogram cate- gory after outclassing Ukraine's Hanna Okhota 5:0 at the K.D. Jadhav Indoor Stadium here on Saturday. The 35-year-old Mary, a mother of three and a pre-tour- nament favourite for the gold, rewrote the record books when she eclipsed her joint haul of five golds with Katie Taylor of Ireland. The Manipuri pugilist, who went over her weight cate- gory to clinch a 51kg bronze at the London Olympics, pre- viously clinched theWorld Championship gold on five occasions -- 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 -- besides bag- ging a silver on her debut in 2001. Welcomed by thunderous chants of "Mary Mary" at the jampacked K.D. Jadhav hall, the Indian took the ring with a statistical and psychological advantage over her Ukrainian opponent, whom she recently beat at the Silesian Women's Open semi-finals in Poland. Living up to the reputation, Mary started the opening round aggressively and landed a couple of right jabs quite early into the round before taking full control with a right- two punch combination to Hanna. However, towards the end of the first round, the Ukrainian managed to get a shot on Mary's face before the Indian wrestled Okhota to the ground. Mary appeared unshakable throughout and ended the round with a few jabs and a right-hand, left-hand combo. The Indian came back with more aggression in the sec- ond round, and started with a powerful hook with her right and then doubled the attack with two quick right jabs to leave her opponent rattled. A left-handed flick from Okhota pushed Mary back- wards but towards the end of the round, the Indian deliv- ered a perfect right hook to inch closer to another gold. The third and decisive round began with the Manipuri pugilist delivering a right-handed jab, and adding it up with a right-hand, left-hand combo that completely demotivated Okhota. Mary then sealed the gold in her favour with another combination of punches, and a few shots at Okhota's face leading the crowd to erupt in joy when the referees announced the unanimous 5:0 verdict in the Indian's favour. -IANS I Photos:IANS Deep In Football Country, Wickets Vie With Goal Posts As The Game Of Cricket Surges By BrittneyMartin -PRAIRIE VIEW, TEXAS A typical Sunday in Texas consists of two things - church and football, and not always in that order. But in this community northwest of Houston, known for its agricultural roots and the historically black college that carries its name, the gridiron now has some competition. For hours each Sunday, four circular grassy fields on the side of U.S. Route 290 play host to dozens of men wielding flat-faced wooden bats. Most are immigrants whose con- versations are a blend of English, Urdu and Hindi, and terms that many outsiders might find just as foreign - wickets, stumps and bails. The game they play is cricket, and its emergence here reflects the incredible diversity of the nation's fourth- largest city and its sprawling reach. Prairie View, situated about 45 miles from downtown Houston, might seem an unlikely place for an international cricket destination, but Houston businessman Tanweer Ahmed is looking to change that. Ahmed is turning an 86-acre lot into a massive sports complex with seven cricket fields, a youth academy and a stadium big enough to host professional teams. "Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world after soccer, and the U.S. is missing out on that part of the world," he said. "But the U.S. has huge potential." Over the past several decades, Houston's growing immigrant population has profoundly changed the local culture. Hispanics now represent the largest racial or eth- nic group, but the Asian population is the fastest growing. There are thriving Vietnamese, Indian and Pakistani com- munities, and the metropolitan area is home to arguably the best curries, kebabs and nihari in the South. The city is dotted with halal butchers and international grocery stores that sell South Asian staples such as chickpea flour. And socially, it's just as common to hear immigrants and the children of immigrants talk about Virat Kohli or Jasprit Bumrah - both men are professional cricket players in India - as it is to hear others talk about quarterback Tom Brady. In Ahmed's view, that makes the area perfect for cricket. The first four fields in Ahmed's complex opened in early September, and the inaugural games involved half a dozen teams, which played for hours despite the heat, humidity and mud from days of rain. With every bowl - a running, full-circle windup pitch - and every "thwack" of the ball - a different sound from baseball, given a batsman's flat- fronted blade - shouts of "oy, oy, oy!" rang out. Cricket has long failed to capture much interest in this country, but that's changing, in large part because of the nation's changing demographics. "What is the fastest growing sport in the United States?" George B. Kirsch, professor emeritus at Manhattan College, wrote in the Journal of Sport History in 2016. "Surprisingly, with the possible exception of lacrosse, the answer is cricket." Many immigrants, especially those from South Asia and the Caribbean, have found that it gives them a way to con- nect. Saad Motiwala, a 27-year-old Pakistani immigrant on the field during that first Sunday in Prairie View, appreci- ates the polyglot nature of the sport and the different cul- tures and communities it brings together. "Playing cricket allows you to meet people you'd never meet otherwise," said Motiwala, who works at a BMW dealership and plays with Ahmed on the Gaous Azam Cricket Club. The sport is already so popular in the area that more people want to join the 31-team Houston Cricket League than the available fields can accommodate. Ahmed decid- ed to set up a batting cage and bowler's pitch on vacant property he owned in Prairie View so that his teammates could practice. Soon after, they asked whether he would consider using the land to build additional fields for the league to use. That's when the idea for the cricket complex was born. Ahmed's passion shines through his often-serious demeanor. And his own story might seem as improbable as the massive sports facility he intends to build. He grew up in Punjab, Pakistan, where his parents were farmers, and was 19 when he immigrated to California with his family. He immediately started to work in fast-food restau- rants. Over a period of eight years, he advanced from cashier to manager. "Where I come from, you have to sacrifice a little bit to gain something," said Ahmed, who is 50. "So, for me at that time, I sacrificed my daily activity, daily entertainment and just kept focusing on the work. And that determina- tion basically took me to where I am today." Today, he owns more than 150 KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut franchises across four states, plus an energy company and construction firm. He recognizes that he is living out the classic American Dream, but he's modest about it. "If I can do it, anyone can do it. That's how I look at it," he said recently. "If you really go back and see, a 19-year- old kid comes here, has nothing in his pocket and just starts working." He jokes that as soon as his four children get their col- lege degrees, they should take over the food business so he can get back to cricket full time. Ahmed played at school in Pakistan but dropped the game for decades after moving to the United States. He picked it up again in 2016 on the suggestion of some of his employees. "I stopped playing because I couldn't afford the time," he recounted from his office in North Houston. "I was working three jobs and barely had time to sleep." In the month since the complex hosted its first games, a parking lot has been paved, the pavilions have been cov- ered and signs have gone up. Ahmed plans to open a cricket academy there next May where local children can learn the game and, he hopes, become lifelong fans. For now, Ahmed is funding the bulk of the project himself and already has spent several million dollars, but he's seeking community donations to complete and help maintain the future complex for years to come. His ultimate goal is a stadium that could hold up to 50,000 fans. -S PECIAL TO T HE W ASHINGTON P OST Photos forTheWashington PostbyMichael Stravato Bowler and batsman square off during a championship game on Oct. 21 at the nascent Prairie View Cricket Complex outside Houston. India's M.C. Mary Kom after defeating Ukraine's Hanna Okhota during a final match in the light flyweight 48 kilogram category during the10th AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships in New Delhi, on Nov. 24, 2018. Mary Kom scripted history by clinching a record sixth World Championship Gold medal in the light flyweight 48 kilogram category after outclassing Ukraine's Hanna Okhota 5:0.

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