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76.16% voter turnout recorded in fourth phase of West Bengal polls: Key points | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: Polling for the fourth phase of the tightly-contested West Bengal assembly elections ended on Saturday evening with a voter turnout of 76.16%.
A total of 373 candidates contested for 44 constituencies across five districts – Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, South 24 Parganas, Hooghly and Howrah. Out of 373 candidates, 323 candidates were male and 50 candidates were female.
Polling was held from 7 am to 6.30 pm in 15,940 polling nine assembly constituencies in Howrah, 11 in South 24 Parganas, five in Alipurduar, nine in Cooch Behar and ten in Hooghly district.
The highest turnout of 79.73% was registered in Cooch Behar district, followed by 76.2 % polling in Hoogly. In South 24 Parganas it was 75.49%, while in Howrah it was 75.03 % and in Alipurduar 73.65%, a senior official in the CEO’s office said.
Female voters dominated this phase as out of a total of 1,15,094,950 voters, 58,95,871 voters were men and 56,98,789 voters were women while 290 were of other genders.

Here are the top developments:
Four killed as central forces open fire after coming under attack
Four people were killed as central forces allegedly opened fire after coming under attack from locals, who “attempted to snatch their rifles”, in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district on Saturday, police said.

The incident took place in Sitalkuchi area when voting was underway, a senior district police officer said.
Clashes broke out between TMC and BJP activists in Mathabhanga area of Sitalkuchi while voting was underway, a source said.
EC orders suspension of polls at polling station number 126 in Sitalkuchi
The Election Commission (EC) ordered suspension of polls on Saturday at polling station number 126 in the Sitalkuchi assembly constituency of West Bengal amid reports of violence.
A spokesperson of the poll panel said the decision was based on an interim report filed by special observers.
The polling was suspended at Amtali Madhyamik Siksha Kendra (polling booth number 126) of the Sitalkuchi Assembly constituency.
A repoll would be ordered in the coming days in accordance with the laid-down procedure, a source said.
18-year-old voter gunned down
In a shocking incident, an 18-year-old voter, Ananda Barman, was allegedly gunned down by miscreants outside booth number 85 in Pathantuli area after clashes broke out between activists of the ruling TMC and the BJP.
The culprits, who are yet to be identified, managed to flee, the officials said.
The incident led to violence in the area as bombs were hurled, prompting central forces to baton-charge to bring the situation under control, police said.
Both the TMC and BJP claimed that Barman belonged to their party, but his family members said he was an activist of the saffron party.
“We have received information about a person being shot outside a polling booth in Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar. We have sought a report from the micro observer,” an Election Commission of India (EC) official said.
Mamata questions self-defence version of central forces, orders CID probe
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that the firing in Cooch Behar was a part of a larger conspiracy with other TMC leaders adding that PM Modi cannot be ruled out of it.
CM Mamata also questioned the central forces’ version of firing on voters in self-defence in Cooch Behar and said her government will initiate a CID probe into the incident.
Banerjee said there is no video footage or any other proof to substantiate claims of the central forces.
Banerjee reiterated her demand for the resignation of Union home minister Amit Shah for the firing incident in Cooch Behar, and wondered whose “direct interference into the functioning of the Election Commission and central forces” led to the excesses.
Modi condoles death in CISF firing in Cooch Behar, blames TMC for violence
Condoling the death of our people in firing by central forces in Cooch Behar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday requested the Election Commission to take stern action against those responsible for the incident and blamed the ruling TMC for perpetrating violence during the polls.
He also accused chief minister Mamata Banerjee of instigating people against the central forces.
“What happened in Cooch Behar is unfortunate and sad. I extend my condolences to the bereaved families and urge the Election Commission to take stern action against those responsible for the incident.
“Mamata Didi and her TMC goons have become jittery because of ground swell of support for BJP,” Modi told an election rally here in North Bengal.
Prashant Kishor: BJP will not cross 100 seats in Bengal
Reacting to his leaked ‘Club House room’ audio chat, Trinamool Congress’ (TMC) poll strategist Prashant Kishor on Saturday reiterated that BJP will not cross 100 seats in the West Bengal assembly elections while adding that the BJP should show courage by sharing the full chat instead of selective part.

An audio chat of ‘Club House room’ involving Prashant Kishor and a few journalists was leaked on social media.
“There is no anti-incumbency against Modi. Modi has become a cult in the country. Modi is popular in Bengal. The Hindi speaking people is the core support base of BJP in Bengal. Modi is very popular here. Modi and Mamata are equally popular in Bengal,” Kishore said in that conversation.
Meanwhile, Election Commission has directed Union home ministry to deploy 71 additional companies of Central Armed Police forces in West Bengal for conduct of remaining four phases of polls.
Polling for the next phase will take place on April 17. While the result of the 44 seats will be declared along with 250 others of the state on May 2.
(With agency inputs)





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Cooch Behar violence mars 4th phase voting in Bengal: Top developments | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: Polling for the fourth phase of the tightly-contested West Bengal assembly elections ended on Saturday evening with a voter turnout of 76.16%.
However, voting was marred by political violence in Cooch Behar in which four people were killed as central forces opened fire due to alleged attack from locals.

Here are the top developments of the day:
Four killed as central forces open fire after coming under attack
Four people were killed as central forces allegedly opened fire after coming under attack from locals, who “attempted to snatch their rifles”, in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district on Saturday, police said.

The incident took place in Sitalkuchi area when voting was underway, a senior district police officer said.
Clashes broke out between TMC and BJP activists in Mathabhanga area of Sitalkuchi while voting was underway, a source said.
Meanwhile, an 18-year-old voter, Ananda Barman, was allegedly gunned down by miscreants outside booth number 85 in Pathantuli area after clashes broke out between activists of the ruling TMC and the BJP.
The culprits, who are yet to be identified, managed to flee, the officials said.
EC orders suspension of polls at polling station number 126 in Sitalkuchi
The Election Commission (EC) ordered suspension of polls at polling station number 126 in the Sitalkuchi assembly constituency of West Bengal amid violence.
A spokesperson of the poll panel said the decision was based on an interim report filed by special observers.
A repoll would be ordered in the coming days in accordance with the laid-down procedure, a source said.
EC defends CISF action, bans entry of political leaders in Cooch Behar
Later in the day, the Election Commission (EC) strongly defended the CISF action and said that the recourse to open fire by security personnel became absolutely necessary in order to save lives of voters lined up at the polling booth, those of other polling personnel and their own lives.
It said the mob had tried to snatch their weapons.
The poll panel has also banned the entry of political leaders from any national, state, or other party into Cooch Behar for the next 72 hours with immediate effect.
“The Election Commission of India further directs that the silence period for phase 5 (i.e. for polls scheduled on April 17) shall be extended to 72 hours and no campaigning shall be permitted during 72 hours before the close of the poll in order to ensure the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections,” an EC order said.
Amid the incidents of violence, the EC has also directed the Union home ministry to deploy 71 additional companies of Central Armed Police forces (CAPFs) in the state for conducting the remaining four phases of polls.
Mamata questions ‘self-defence’ version of central forces, orders CID probe
The violence also triggered a massive political storm between the ruling TMC and rival BJ
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that the firing in Cooch Behar was a part of a larger conspiracy.
She also seemed to directly accuse PM Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah for the violence.
Mamata also questioned the central forces’ version of firing on voters in self-defence and said her government will initiate a CID probe into the incident.
Banerjee said there is no video footage or any other proof to substantiate claims of the central forces.
Banerjee reiterated her demand for the resignation of home minister Shah for the incident and wondered whose “direct interference into the functioning of the Election Commission and central forces” led to the excesses.
PM Modi condoles death in CISF firing, blames TMC
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the deaths in Cooch Behar and requested the Election Commission to take stern action against those responsible for the incident.
He also blamed the ruling TMC for perpetrating violence during the polls.
He accused chief minister Mamata Banerjee of instigating people against the central forces.
“What happened in Cooch Behar is unfortunate and sad. I extend my condolences to the bereaved families and urge the Election Commission to take stern action against those responsible for the incident,” Modi said.
373 candidates in the fray in fourth phase
Meanwhile, a total of 373 candidates contested for 44 constituencies across five districts – Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, South 24 Parganas, Hooghly and Howrah. Out of 373 candidates, 323 candidates were male and 50 candidates were female.
Polling was held from 7am to 6.30pm in 15,940 polling nine assembly constituencies in Howrah, 11 in South 24 Parganas, five in Alipurduar, nine in Cooch Behar and ten in Hooghly district.
The Cooch Behar district recorded the highest turnout of 79.73%, followed by 76.2% polling in Hoogly. In South 24 Parganas it was 75.49%, while in Howrah it was 75.03 % and in Alipurduar 73.65%, a senior official in the CEO’s office said.
Female voters dominated this phase as out of a total of 1,15,094,950 voters, 58,95,871 voters were men and 56,98,789 voters were women while 290 were of other genders.
Polling for the next phase will take place on April 17.
Prashant Kishor: BJP will not cross 100 seats in Bengal
Meanwhile, another controversy erupted in the state after an audio chat of ‘Club House room’ involving TMC poll strategist Prashant Kishor and a few journalists was leaked on social media.
“There is no anti-incumbency against Modi. Modi has become a cult in the country. Modi is popular in Bengal. The Hindi speaking people is the core support base of BJP in Bengal. Modi is very popular here. Modi and Mamata are equally popular in Bengal,” Kishor said in the conversation, which was tweeted by BJP later.
Reacting to his leaked chat, Kishor reiterated that BJP will not cross 100 seats in the West Bengal assembly elections. He also dared the saffron party to share the full chat instead of “selective” part.

(With agency inputs)





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India fastest in world to administer 100 million Covid vaccine shots | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: India on Saturday became the fastest country in the world to reach the 100 million vaccination mark, taking just 85 days to achieve the milestone.
With this, India has now administered shots to over 10 crore people and ranks third in the world in terms of total vaccinations.
The Union health ministry tweeted that it took India 85 days since it kicked off the immunisation drive to vaccinate 10 crore people.

In comparison, the US administered 92.09 million doses in the same period of time while China’s coverage was 61.42 million.
However, in terms of total vaccinations, India still lags US and China.
The US, which is the worst-hit country in the world, has vaccinated nearly 19% of its total population.

China has also administered shots to over 16 crore people so far.
India, the second most populated country after China, has vaccinated 0.91% of its people.
Currently, India is administering shots to only those who are aged 45 or above as part of its phase-wise vaccination coverage plan.
The current phase is expected to end by July. However, several states have been flagging concerns of vaccine shortage.

Meanwhile, India continues to witness a sharp spike in daily coronavirus cases with the country recording over 1.45 lakh infections on Saturday – its highest-ever surge.
With over 13.2 crore cases so far, India is the third worst Covid-hit country in the world after the US and Brazil.



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Olympic selection trials in Taekwondo to be supervised by IOA | More sports News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: The selection trials for the national Taekwondo squad which will take part in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers will be conducted by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) instead of the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
The decision has been taken to ensure a free and transparent selection trial since Taekwondo Federation of India is not a recognised National Sporting Federation (NSF).
“After a meeting that took place between senior officials of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Sports Authority of India earlier this week, it has been decided that the selection trials for the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Taekwondo and Para Taekwondo will be conducted by Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and not by Sports Authority of India,” a press release stated.
SAI was earlier supposed to hold the selections from April 15 to 17. All necessary support including financial assistance will be provided by SAI.



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Ajinkya Rahane completes 150 games in IPL | Cricket News – Times of India

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MUMBAI: Delhi Capitals batsman Ajinkya Rahane completed 150 games in the Indian Premier League (IPL) when he stepped onto the field in the game against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) on Saturday.
Rahane has scored 3933 runs in the IPL at a strike rate of 121.38. He has smashed 28 half-centuries and two tons.

Meanwhile, spinner Amit Mishra completed 100 games for Delhi Capitals. The right-arm spinner has played a total of 151 matches in the cash-rich league but for the Delhi-based franchise, Mishra has featured in the 100 matches.

Delhi Capitals skipper Rishabh Pant won the toss and opted to field first against CSK.
On Friday, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) spinner Yuzvendra Chahal added another feather to his illustrious cap as he completed 100 games in the IPL.

Chahal achieved the feat when he stepped on the field against Mumbai Indians. The right-arm-leg spinner, who made his debut for Mumbai Indians in 2013, has played 99 games for his franchise RCB. The IPL 2021 tournament opener is also Chahal’s 200th T20 match.
Chahal has taken 121 wickets in the cash-rich league, giving runs at an economy of 7.67. In last year’s IPL, the right arm leg spinner scalped 21 wickets for RCB.





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Harry expected to fly in for funeral of grandfather Prince Philip – Times of India

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LONDON: The rift in the royal ranks after an explosive interview by Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle is to be set aside as reports suggest that the Duke of Sussex is keen to fly to the UK despite coronavirus restrictions to attend grandfather Prince Philip’s funeral.
Harry was close to his grandfather and, according to media reports, he is keen to be by the side of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, as she mourns the passing of her husband of 73 years.
Harry, who is now based in California, is unlikely to be joined by Meghan, who is heavily pregnant with their second baby.
“He will, of course, be there, no matter how difficult relations are between the Sussexes and the family,” a source was quoted as saying in ‘The Daily Telegraph’.
The difficult relations are a reference to an Oprah Winfrey interview last month during which the couple had raised serious concerns of lack of support within the royal ranks before they stepped back as frontline royals last year.
Current coronavirus lockdown rules state that the majority of people attempting to travel to the UK must test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of their flight and then quarantine for 10 days on arrival. But there is an exemption for people attending the funeral of a close family member and the possibility of a five-day quarantine under the Test and Release system with a negative Covid result.
Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s website has been transformed into a memorial page to the Duke of Edinburgh. A short message on Archewell.Com, set against a dark background, reads: “In loving memory of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. 1921-2021. Thank you for your service… you will be greatly missed.”
The details of the funeral, to be held at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, are being finalised but it is expected to be a very scaled down event due to the lockdown.
The Queen, who is said to have been by the side of her husband in his final hours, is being comforted by her children – Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
“He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know,” reads a quote from her speech to mark their golden wedding anniversary in 1997, alongside a picture of the couple released on the official Buckingham Palace social media platforms.
“At The Queen’s Coronation in 1953, The Duke of Edinburgh swore to be Her Majesty’s ‘liege man of life and limb’. The Duke was a devoted consort (companion to the Sovereign) for almost 70 years, from Her Majesty’s Accession in 1952 until his death,” adds a note with another set of images of the royal couple.
According to ‘The Daily Telegraph’, as the Duke of Edinburgh’s frail condition worsened overnight on Thursday, with insiders warning that he was “gravely ill”, any talk of rushing the 99-year-old back to hospital was dismissed by the Queen. She would have known her husband’s wishes after he returned from a lengthy stay in hospital only last month.
“He spent most of the four weeks he was in hospital trying to get home. They operated on his heart in a bid to give him a little longer, maybe with the 100th birthday in mind. But he didn’t really care about that. He just wanted to be back in his own bed. There is no way he would have wanted to die in hospital,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying.
Although Buckingham Palace declined to go into any “specifics” about the nature of Prince Philip’s passing, it is thought the Queen was at her husband’s bedside at his private chambers in Windsor Castle when the time came late on Friday morning.
According to royal protocol, the immediate family members would have been informed of the news, followed by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson – with the code “Forth Bridge is down”, triggering Operation Forth Bridge and flags atop palaces and government buildings flying at half-mast.
Royal events were given codenames historically to ensure the news did not leak to the public via the palace switchboards until all the relevant departments had been officially informed.



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Covid: NHRC notice to EC, govt on ‘unregulated’ poll gatherings | India News – Times of India

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BHUBANESHWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought an action taken report (ATR) from the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Union home secretary over Covid guidelines violations in the electoral process in different states and UTs.
Acting on a petition filed by Odisha native human rights lawyer Radhakanta Tripathy, the apex rights watchdog on Friday asked the authorities for a response within four weeks.
While polling for assembly elections in states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Assam has ended recently, West Bengal has voted in four of its eight-phases. By-elections in 14 assembly seats, along with Pipili in Odisha, are scheduled on April 17.
The petitioner pointed out that while there are night curfews as the methods of restraint by the government for public at large, there is no such restrictions for poll gatherings which amounts to serious discrimination among public and blatantly violated the right to life ensure to every citizen of India under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Pointing out that the Union government and the states have notified to limit the number of people in funerals and marriages, there is no limit of public gatherings in election rallies at any places where elections, byeelection or local body elections across India are being held.
The petition prayed for conducting compulsory tests of all the candidates, political leaders, star campaigners, people and officials involved in the electoral process. He also sought implementation of social distancing norms in letter and spirit and a holistic provision for voters in India during the current pandemic situation.
Tripathy pointed out that unregulated election rallies, mass protest and get-togethers frustrate the slogan of “Do Gaj Duri, Mask hei Zaruri” and is responsible for surge in Corona cases in India. He alleged failure of the Election Commission of India and the state machineries for the surge in cases. Alleging that pre-cautionary measures such as tracing, tracking and vaccinating remain like a mirage for the voters , Tripathy in his petition pointed out that the same amounts to serious human rights violation during the pandemic.
Seeking the NHRC intervention on a war footing, Tripathy stated that more than 40 countries in the world have delayed and post postponed their national elections while 78 countries have deferred sub national elections due to Covid-19.



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Eastern Ladakh: India, China agree to maintain stability on ground; avoid any new incidents | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: India and China have agreed at their 11th round of military talks to jointly maintain stability on the ground, and avoid any new incidents in eastern Ladakh.
A day after the talks, the Indian Army on Saturday said the two sides agreed on the need to resolve the outstanding issues in an expeditious manner in accordance with the existing agreements and protocols.
“The two sides had a detailed exchange of views for the resolution of the remaining issues related to disengagement along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) in Eastern Ladakh,” it said.
“The two sides agreed on the need to resolve the outstanding issues in an expeditious manner in accordance with the existing agreements and protocols,” the Army said in a statement.
In this context, the Army said it was also highlighted that completion of disengagement in other areas would pave the way for the two sides to consider de-escalation of forces and ensure full restoration of peace and tranquillity and enable progress in bilateral relations.
“The two sides agreed that it was important to take guidance from the consensus of their leaders, continue their communication and dialogue and work towards a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest,” it added.
“They also agreed to jointly maintain stability on the ground, avoid any new incidents and jointly maintain peace in the border areas,” the statement said.
The 11th round of Corps Commander-level talks took place at the Chushul border point on the Indian side of the LAC in eastern Ladakh. The parleys began at around 10:30 AM and ended at 11:30 PM.
The border standoff between the armies of India and China erupted on May 5 last following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas in eastern Ladakh and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed withdrawal of troops and weapons from the North and South banks of Pangong lake in February in line with an agreement on disengagement.
India has been insisting that a resolution of outstanding issues including in Depsang, Hot Springs and Gogra is essential for overall ties between the two countries.



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Now Sanitation workers to have uniform dress code across India | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: Now sanitation workers or safari karmacharis across the country will have a uniform dress code across the country. The housing and urban affairs ministry has finalised the uniform for three categories of sanitation workers – sewer cleaners with safety gears, sweepers and waste collectors, and the supervisors.
The uniforms have been finalized after NIIFT, Mohali and NIIFT, Gandhinagar selected the best ones on the basis of design, comfort, durability and cost from a short list of 18 shortlisted designs. The ministry has received 39 entries from different cities as part of the Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge.
Announcing this, Union housing and urban affairs secretary D S Mishra urged all urban local bodies to use these new designs for allotting new uniforms to safai karmis or Swachhata warriors so that they get a national identity. “This will not only instill a sense of pride among our Safai Karmis, who are the backbone of Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) but also lead to citizens recognizing the untiring efforts of these warriors,” he said.

The ministry has sent letters to all states for adopting the uniform.
The standardised uniform has been made for three categories – Swcahhta Prehari, who are engaged in underground cleaning of septic tanks or sewer lines with safety gears; Safai Mitra, those engaged in road sweeping and solid waste collection and for machine operators and supervisors of road sweeping and waste collection or indirectly engaged in public area cleaning.
“We have been pursuing with the states to adopt mechanical cleaning of septic tanks and sewer lines. Only in extraordinary cases, if any cleaner has to enter such lines, they must be fully equipped with safety gears. The focus is to ensure no life is lost while cleaning sewer lines or septic tanks,” said an official.



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SRH spinner Rashid Khan ‘ready’ for opening clash against KKR | Cricket News – Times of India

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CHENNAI: Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) spinner Rashid Khan is “ready” to take on Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 on Sunday.
The 14th edition of the cash-rich league kicked off with a thrilling encounter between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and SRH will begin their campaign in the third game of this IPL on Sunday.

The Afghanistan spinner Rashid on Saturday shared pictures from SRH’s practice game played as the build-up to their tournament opener. “All ready for tomorrow game #OrangerArmyOrNothing,” Rashid tweeted.

Earlier in the day, England batsman Jason Roy arrived in Chennai for the IPL. Roy was signed by SRH ahead of the tournament as a replacement for Mitchell Marsh. The Australia all-rounder made himself unavailable for the entire season owing to personal reasons.
Roy will now remain in seven days of quarantine as per BCCI’s SOPs before joining the squad.

The David Warner-led side had won five out of their last six games to qualify for the playoffs in the 13th edition of the tournament and the team will be looking to carry forward the momentum in this year’s IPL.
Over the years, SRH has depended heavily on skipper Warner and he has consistently delivered. With 548 runs in the 13th edition, the captain once again led the Hyderabad unit’s charge. And it will be a delight for the SRH team management that opening partner Jonny Bairstow has also been in tremendous form.
When it comes to the bowling department, Warner has one of the best line-ups at his disposal. While Bhuvneshwar is back and showed his prowess in the recently concluded series against England, T Natarajan stole the show in the last edition and was rewarded with a national call-up. Not to forget Sandeep Sharma’s swing bowling and Rashid’s spin.





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