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Hardik Pandya will be motivated to show what he is capable of as a leader: Kirsten

Mumbai, Jan 22 (IANS) Former India and South Africa head coach Gary Kirsten, who will be serving as mentor-cum-batting coach at the Ahmedabad franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL), feels all-rounder Hardik Pandya will be motivated to show his leadership credentials.

On Friday, the Ahmedabad-based franchise announced Pandya as captain after signing him up for Rs 15 crore. Apart from him, the CVC Capitals-owned team have roped in Afghanistan all-rounder Rashid Khan and uncapped India leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi for Rs 15 crore and four crore respectively. It means the Ahmedabad team will enter the mega IPL auctions with a purse of Rs 52 crore.

“I am looking forward to working with Hardik as a young and new captain. I think he will be really motivated to come in and make a plan and show what he is capable of at this level of the game as a leader. He’s a great player. What I have heard is that he is really keen to get into the mix and get involved,” said Kirsten on ‘IPL: Selection Day’ show on Star Sports.

“I think he understands the importance of this tournament. What I have heard is that he is raring to go and get into the mix from a leadership perspective. So, I think that’s really exciting for us to have a player with such a level of skill, motivated to do well in this competition,” added Kirsten, the former South Africa batter.

Working with the Ahmedabad franchise in the IPL will be Kirsten’s third appearance in a coaching capacity in the tournament after being previously associated with Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). Joining him in the Ahmedabad franchise will be former India pacer Ashish Nehra (as head coach) and former England batter Vikram Solanki (as director of cricket).

Co-incidentally, the trio had worked together in the 2019 IPL season for RCB in coaching positions. “I am looking forward to be back in IPL. It’s a fantastic experience and with a new franchise, is something that I am really excited about; also, to be working alongside Ashish Nehra and Vikram Solanki, who I have worked with before. I think we are all very excited about the opportunity,” stated Kirsten.

Kirsten was excited by the other two picks of the Ahmedabad team — Khan and Gill –, released by Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders respectively. “They are both high performers — Rashid Khan has gone around the world, proven his value anywhere, so that’s an incredible signing for us.

“I am very excited to work with him — I haven’t yet — but I have seen him a lot, have met him few times, but have never really worked with him. So, I am looking forward to that. Certainly, watching him on the field, he’s a very competitive, young man that wants to do well for the franchise that he’s been involved in.

“Gill is a fantastic player, who, in my view, should be playing for India. He is on the verge of that and has played already. With great flair and instinct for the game, he could be a match-winner on his own. From a batting perspective, I am looking forward to working with him and helping him give the best out of an IPL season.”



Indian-origin scientist creates 1st molecular structure of Omicron protein

Toronto, Jan 22 (IANS) An Indian-origin researcher at University of British Columbia (UBC) has created the world’s first molecular-level structural analysis of the Omicron variant spike protein.

Published in the Science journal, the analysis which is done at near atomic resolution using cryo-electron microscopy, reveals how the heavily mutated Omicron variant attaches to and infects human cells.

“Understanding the molecular structure of the viral spike protein is important as it will allow us to develop more effective treatments against Omicron and related variants in the future,” said the study’s lead author Dr Sriram Subramaniam, a professor at UBC’s department of biochemistry and molecular biology.

“By analysing the mechanisms by which the virus infects human cells, we can develop better treatments that disrupt that process and neutralise the virus,” Subramaniam added.

The spike protein, which is located on the outside of a coronavirus, enables SARS-CoV-2 to enter human cells.

The Omicron variant has an unprecedented 36 mutations on its spike protein — three to five times more than previous variants.

The structural analysis revealed that several mutations create new salt bridges and hydrogen bonds between the spike protein and the human cell receptor known as ACE2.

The new bonds appear to increase binding affinity – how strongly the virus attaches to human cells.

“The findings show that Omicron has greater binding affinity than the original virus, with levels more comparable to what we see with the Delta variant,” said Subramaniam.

“It is remarkable that the Omicron variant evolved to retain its ability to bind with human cells despite such extensive mutations.”

The Omicron spike protein exhibits increased antibody evasion.

In contrast to previous variants, Omicron showed measurable evasion from all six monoclonal antibodies tested, with complete escape from five.

The variant also displayed increased evasion of antibodies collected from vaccinated individuals and unvaccinated Covid-19 patients.

“Notably, Omicron was less evasive of the immunity created by vaccines, compared to immunity from natural infection in unvaccinated patients. This suggests that vaccination remains our best defence,” Subramaniam informed.



It's just one of those things I'll never forget: Usman Khawaja on Ashes Sydney Test

Sydney, Jan 22 (IANS) Australia batter Usman Khawaja said the happenings during the fourth Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) is something he will never forget in his life. In the drawn Test, Khawaja made a smashing comeback in the longest format of the game, notching up 137 and 101 not out in both innings and was adjudged ‘Player of the Match’ for his twin tons.

“I haven’t had a feeling like that in cricket in my entire life. It was just unexpected. I guess through everything that happened with Covid, Heady (Travis Head) going down, me getting an opportunity. I had kind of clocked off a little bit because I’m thinking, ‘I’m not going to get an opportunity here. You don’t really change the winning team and the guys are going great, which is awesome to see’,” Khawaja was quoted as saying by ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’.

“And I was fine with that. I was having a lot of fun just being around the guys and Rach (wife Rachel) and (daughter) Aisha were with me, they were enjoying it, too. That Test match was kind of just like a bonus at that time the way things worked out. I don’t know if it’s a fairytale, but it’s as close as it gets, having family around there and everything,” added Khawaja, who is now in the reckoning to be on the tour of Pakistan in March.

Khawaja is still coming to terms with his Cinderella comeback in Test cricket at his home ground. “It’s just one of those things I’ll never forget. And I probably haven’t had a feeling like that in cricket in my whole life. To have things work out like that, on that specific occasion, and how everything led up to that, it’s quite bizarre. I couldn’t have written it, to be honest; I couldn’t have written that script myself.”

Khawaja, who grew up in Sydney but now captains Queensland in domestic cricket, was floored by the response from the crowd at the SCG when he got his centuries in both innings. “The crowd chanting my name as I’m coming off the field both times (after centuries) was something I’d never thought I’d ever experience. It was unbelievable. And it was loud, especially after that first one – there was a pretty big crowd. It was actually a really surreal and cool moment.”

Khawaj’s incredible comeback story along with pacer Scott Boland’s rise to Test stardom have been remarkable stories in Australia winning the Ashes 4-0. “I was calling Scotty a cult hero and I was the people’s champ. I told him we make a formidable team. I said, ‘We weren’t supposed to be here, Scotty, but here we are.'”



Ana de Armas fans sue Universal Studios for ‘Yesterday’ promo

Two fans of the Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas, have filed a lawsuit against Universal Studios seeking a settlement of at least $5 million on behalf of affected consumers.

The lawsuit has been filed over false advertising, alleging that the fans were duped into renting the 2019 film ‘Yesterday’ because the trailer gave them the impression that the actress would appear in the film, reports ‘Variety’.

Conor Woulfe, 38, of Maryland, and Peter Michael Rosza, 44, of San Diego County, California, say they each paid $3.99 to rent the movie on Amazon Prime, only to discover that de Armas had been removed from the final cut of the film.

The lawsuit accessed by ‘Variety’ states: “Because consumers were promised a movie with Ana De Armas by the trailer for ‘Yesterday’, but did not receive a movie with any appearance of Ana de Armas at all, such consumers were not provided with any value for their rental or purchase.”

‘Yesterday’ stars Himesh Patel (most recently seen in ‘Don’t Look Up’) as Jack Malik, a singer-songwriter who becomes the only person on Earth to remember ‘The Beatles’ after a supernatural occurrence.

He rockets to stardom after he claims the credit for the English rock band’s songs. Ana de Armas was to appear in the film as Jack’s love interest, but her part was removed on the edit table.

Google may launch its smartwatch in May

San Francisco, Jan 22 (IANS) Google is reportedly working on its own in-house smartwatch and now a popular tipster has revealed that the tech giant might release it on May 26 this year.

Popular tipster Jon Prosser took to Twitter to provide details of the Google Pixel Watch.

“Pixel Watch. I have heard that Google is planning on launching it on Thursday, May 26, over a year since we leaked it. This is the first time we have seen a set date on the device behind the scenes. Google is known for pushing back dates, but if they do, we will know,” he said.

This timeline syncs with the Google I/O developer conference where Google announces a sleuth of hardware and software upgrades.

Pixel Watch is expected to debut with features that may not be initially available on other Wear OS watches. One such anticipated feature is the next-generation of Google Assistant.

There is also a possibility that Google might go with an Exynos-based Tensor chip for its upcoming smartwatch. Currently, Google Pixel 6 devices are using the Tensor GS 101 chipset, which is basically an Exynos processor with hardware enhancements.

AIn addition, the Watch will have basic fitness tracking features, including step counting and a heart rate monitor, with Google also reportedly working on debuting a Fitbit integration into Wear OS with the new watch when it launches.

Google was earlier expected to unveil its first smartwatch alongside the Pixel 6, but the launch was reportedly delayed.



Teaser of Santhanam-starrer ‘Agent Kannayiram’ garners million views

The teaser of director Manoj Beedha’s ‘Agent Kannayiram’, which features actors Santhanam, Riya Suman and Sruthi Hariharan in the lead, has garnered over a million views on YouTube within a day of being released.

The film, which has raised expectations among fans and film buffs, will have Santhanam testing new waters. The actor plays a detective in the film, which promises to be a laugh riot.

Director Manoj Beedha, while releasing the teaser of the film on his Twitter handle, said: “Santhanam sir is someone who is very cool and very sincere and that’s why he is where he is today. Happy birthday sir, this is my gift to you. May you entertain more and more people!! I loved every bit of directing agent Kannayiram.”

The director also went on to tell audiences: ” We’ve broken some rules of a Santhanam film, taking it into a different territory.”

Actress Riya Suman, who plays one of the leads in the film, responded to the director’s tweet, with a tweet of her own.

Quoting Pablo Picasso, she said: “Ha! Sure broke quite a few rules there, because as rightly said: ‘Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like An Artist!'”

The film, which has music by Yuvan Shankar Raja, features a host of comedians including Pugazh, Munishkanth, Redin Kingsley and E Ramdas.

Global crypto market suffers $1 trillion loss as Bitcoin crashes

New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) Bitcoin, along with other digital cryptocurrencies, crashed to its lowest level on Saturday and the continuing meltdown has wiped out over $1 trillion from the global crypto market value.

Bitcoin was hovering at $35,000 per coin and the largest digital asset by market value has lost more than 40 per cent since reaching its peak in November 2021.

Bitcoin hit an all-time high of roughly $69,000 in November.

The crypto crash came as the US Federal Reserve raised the possibility of boosting interest rates as soon as March and withdrawing stimulus from the market.

Other digital currencies, Ethereum, Finance Coin and Cardano also witnessed similar meltdowns. Solana, Dogecoin and Shiba Inu also saw massive drops.

Bitcoin has crashed below $36,000 — a level below which “there is not much support until the $30,000 level,” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, said in a note.

Bitcoin’s decline since that November has wiped out more than $600 billion in its market value.

Crypto assets such as Bitcoin have matured from an obscure asset class with few users to an integral part of the digital asset revolution, raising financial stability concerns.

Given their relatively high volatility and valuations, cryptocurrencies’ increased co-movement could soon pose risks to financial stability especially in countries with widespread crypto adoption, according to IMF research.

It is, thus, time to adopt a comprehensive, coordinated global regulatory framework to guide national regulation and supervision and mitigate the financial stability risks stemming from the crypto ecosystem.

The market value of these novel assets rose to nearly $3 trillion in November from $620 billion in 2017, on soaring popularity among retail and institutional investors alike, despite high volatility.



Mission: Impossible 7 and 8 release pushed to 2023, 2024

The release dates of two films from the Tom Cruise-starrer spy action series: ‘Mission: Impossible 7’ and ‘Mission: Impossible 8’ have been pushed in view of the Covid surge in the US and across Europe.

‘Mission: Impossible 7′, which was earlier supposed to make its debut on September 30, will now premiere on July 14, 2023, reports ‘Variety’. ‘Mission: Impossible 8’, which was slated for a July 7, 2023, release, will instead open on June 28, 2024.

This is not the first time that the release of ‘Mission: Impossible 7’ has been pushed back. The film, co-produced by Skydance and Paramount Pictures, was originally scheduled to open on July 23, 2021, but has been postponed multiple times.

The production companies said in a joint statement quoted by ‘Variety’: “After thoughtful consideration, Paramount Pictures and Skydance have decided to postpone the release dates for ‘Mission: Impossible 7 & 8’ in response to delays due to the ongoing pandemic. … We look forward to providing moviegoers with an unparalleled theatrical experience.”

‘Mission: Impossible’ films involve complex shoots as they are replete with stunts and effects, with the filmmaking team relying very less on the ‘green screen’. The team also jets from one foreign port of call to another (the latest films, for instance, have been shot in the U.K., Italy and Poland, to name a few locations), an exercise which seems to have been severely affected in the post-pandemic world, according to ‘Variety’.

Expert RAW app for Galaxy S21 Ultra updated with new features

Seoul, Jan 22 (IANS) Samsung has started adding Pro Mode support for the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s dedicated telephoto camera via a new “Expert RAW” app.

According to 9To5Google, the Expert RAW app for Galaxy S21 Ultra has been updated to fix a number of issues including when using the telephoto camera.

This could also solve issues including shutter speed information when attempting to capture long exposure photos with the Expert RAW app.

Images can also be saved in their lossless JPEG versions or 16-bit linear DND RAW formats. Expert RAW also supports HDR. One can even directly open DNG RAW files in Adobe Lightroom through a dedicated button on the image viewer screen.

Meanwhile, Samsung recently announced the official launch of One UI 4 that will roll out first on the Galaxy S21 series including Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra.

The update is based on Android 12 and adds new theming options, keyboard tweaks and privacy settings.

With a whole host of new Colour Palettes to choose from, you can alter the look and feel of everything from your home screen to icons, menu, button and background.

On the data security front, One UI 4 alerts you when an app is attempting to access your camera or microphone, and offers a new privacy dashboard that brings all your settings and controls into one convenient place.



Cricketer Hanuma Vihari congratulates Nani's 'Shyam Singha Roy' team

New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) After Megastar Chiranjeevi, cricketer Hanuma Vihari has congratulated the entire team of director Rahul Sankrityan’s ‘Shyam Singha Roy’, featuring actors Nani and Sai Pallavi in the lead, even as the makers of the movie chose to release a deleted scene on Saturday.

Taking to Twitter, Vihari said, “Late night show!!” and then added: “Very intriguing movie. Congratulations to the whole team of ‘Shyam Singha Roy’.”

The cricketer’s tweet is bound to delight the team even further as congratulatory messages are continuing to pour in for the team, ever since the film started streaming on Netflix on Friday.

Only a day ago, Megastar Chiranjeevi and his wife Surekha met Nani in person and congratulated him for making a fine film.

Production house Niharika Entertainment, sharing a video clip of actor Chiranjeevi meeting Nani and congratulating, said: “Priceless Moments. Thanks a lot dear Mega star Chiranjeevi garu – Surekha garu for your kind words and lovely gesture. A heart warming moment for the entire team of ‘Shyam Singha Roy’.”

The team of ‘Shyam Singha Roy’ on Saturday, meanwhile, released a deleted scene from the film, much to the delight of actor Nani’s fans.