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IPL 6: Aussie bowler Shaun Tait angry over spot fix claims

Australian fast bowler Shaun Tait has strongly denied any link to the arrest of three Indian teammates allegedly involved in spot-fixing during an Indian domestic Twenty20 cricket tournament.

Test player Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and fellow bowlers Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila were all arrested Thursday, Indian police said, with 11 bookmakers also detained in connection with the inquiry.

The three cricketers play for the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, as does former Test star Tait.

Tait's name was circulated in social media, on radio and a number of websites along with the three Indians, but he robustly denied any wrongdoing in a statement.

"I'm bewildered, I'm angry and I'm upset at the false suggestions I've been involved in any wrongdoing," he said in the statement.

"While I welcome the recent statements from police clearing me of any involvement, for a few hours I was deeply distressed by the rumours that were rapidly circulating about me, most of which were aired in the social media space.

"Not only were they without foundation, they highlight the danger of a medium that deals with innuendo rather than fact, the result of which has brought my name into question," he added.

"At no stage in my career have I engaged in spot or match fixing and I'm in discussions with my manager and legal representatives to examine how this episode unfolded and any further action I may take."

Cricket Australia said the head of its anti-corruption unit Sean Carroll had spoken to Tait following Delhi police's statement.

"Shaun reiterated to CA that he had absolutely no involvement in any of the issues that are currently being investigated," CA said in a statement Friday.

"CA is comfortable that Shaun is being appropriately supported in India and reminds those who have been speculating on the ongoing investigations to base their comments on known facts, not unsubstantiated rumour."

Spot-fixing is an illegal activity where a specific part of a game, but not the outcome, is fixed.

Sreesanth, who has played 27 Tests for India, is alleged to have been paid four million rupees ($75,000) to give away around 14 runs in an over while playing for the Royals against the Kings XI Punjab on May 9.

Chavan also allegedly agreed to give away the same number of runs in a match on Wednesday night against the Mumbai Indians in exchange for six million rupees ($110,000), police said.

A third player, Chandila, is accused of accepting two million rupees ($36,000), for giving away a set number of runs in a match between the Rajasthan Royals and the Pune Warriors.

Black Caviar puts in on the linem in TJ Smith Stakes

THE gamesmanship and cross-border jousting has helped set the scene.

Now for some racing.

Black Caviar, the horse that can't be beaten, puts it on the line for the 25th time at Randwick tomorrow and is a $1.10 favourite to keep her peerless record intact.

The champion sprinter of the world is also attempting to win her 15th Group I race in the TJ Smith Stakes, a feat that would be an Australian record in itself.

And barring a catastrophe, and it would be one, she will win.

While some are suggesting the Melbourne mare will be given the treatment by her Sydney opposition, no-one is tipping against a Black Caviar victory.

Trainers in Sydney this week have raised their eyebrows and put on knowing looks when questioned about the tactics likely to be employed against Black Caviar.

John O'Shea, who will run Sea Siren, said her inside barrier draw could be a disaster and fellow trainer Joe Pride, has questioned the quality of those who have opposed her in her past few wins.

It is a popular knock on the mare that she hasn't faced large or good fields in many of her 24 victories.

That observation can be met with another that says it has always been so with the greatest horses.

Phar Lap, for instance, met fewer horses in most of his Australian starts than Black Caviar has.

In 31 of his 36 Australian wins, Phar Lap faced six or fewer opponents.

In 15 of those wins only three or fewer lined up against him and in five of those he met only two challengers.

Yet, when he was called on to perform he did.

After three months without a race and after three weeks in a horse box on the open deck of a steamship crossing the Pacific, Phar Lap, in his first run on dirt, started favourite and won the richest race on earth in track record time.

At Randwick, Black Caviar confronts 10 other horses ranging from Bel Sprinter at $11 to Onthelookout, whose trainer admits he's only there to earn bragging rights, at $301.

Already O'Shea has declared the classy Sea Siren is short of her peak, the outstanding sprinter Hay List is under a cloud and stewards have been informed he won't engage in any speed battle, and Bel Sprinter's trainer Jason Warren says he will drop straight to the rear.

Corey Brown on the likely leader Rain Affair has declared he will serve it up the mare and Pride says she will be made to earn her cheque.

It's all been said before.

She beat Hay List when he was younger and fitter and gave him a six-length start.

She's beaten 35 individual Group I winners in her 24 starts.

And, as Moody said this week, under the conditions of the race, “there is no horse on the planet that can beat her”.

Nuggets win 14th straight, 101-100 over 76ers

The Denver Nuggets' streak lives on thanks to some luck and pluck.

Corey Brewer sank three free throws with 2.1 seconds left and the Denver Nuggets stretched their franchise-best winning streak to 14 games with a 101-100 thriller over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night.

Anthony Randolph blocked Damien Wilkins' desperation jumper at the buzzer to secure Denver's 16th straight win at the Pepsi Center - and its most unlikely.

The Nuggets, overlooked in the great surge by the Miami Heat, trailed by five as the clock ticked below 10 seconds.

Brewer sank a 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds left that made it 100-98. He fouled Evan Turner with 7.1 seconds left and Turner, a 75 percent free-throw shooter, missed both of his foul shots, the first one bouncing out and the second one slowly rimming out.

''It's crazy. To be honest, I didn't think we had any chance of winning,'' Brewer said. ''Then he missed those free throws and I was like, 'OK, we've got a little chance.' He gave us life.''

After a timeout, Anthony Miller inbounded to Danilo Gallinari, who handed it off to Brewer, who quickly fired up a 3-pointer as Wilkins slapped him on his left arm, drawing the whistle with 2.1 seconds left.

''I saw him coming and I just tried to get it off quick. He hit my arm, luckily, so I'll take the foul,'' said Brewer, who finished with 29 points.

Brewer took a deep breath and sank the first shot.

''I was just trying to be calm. I knew I needed to make two out of three and once I made the first one, a little pressure's off,'' Brewer said.

He hit his second, then took a step back while JaVale McGee returned to the game. Once McGee was in place for a possible rebound, Brewer swished his third free throw.

After a timeout, Randolph blocked Wilkins, who finished with 24 points, and win No. 14 was theirs.

''There's no one to point the finger at,'' Turner said. ''We played hard the whole game, whatever could go wrong did go wrong.''

The Nuggets haven't lost at home since Jan. 14 against Washington and they're in the midst of their longest winning streak since joining the NBA in 1976, a streak that survived despite an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers.

Even though Miller scored a season-high 21 points, the Nuggets sorely missed Ty Lawson (right heel) and Wilson Chandler (left shoulder), both of whom were hurt in Denver's signature win at Oklahoma City Tuesday night.

They nearly lost to the NBA's lowest scoring team, one that owns just six road wins, tied for the fewest in the league this season.

Gallinari's turnover led to Wilkins' jumper that made it 98-90 with two minutes remaining, and the crowd was standing in disbelief.

Randolph's slam dunk with made it 98-95, but Jrue Holiday, who had 15 assists to go with his 18 points, sank two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to give Philadelphia a seemingly safe five-point cushion.

Before the game, it was noted that George Karl's team has been flying under the radar because of the Heat's 24-game winning streak that included a comeback Wednesday night from a 27-point deficit in Cleveland.

''That's fine,'' Karl said. ''That's fine with me. I just don't want to get down 27 tonight. I don't think we can shoot the 3 as well as Miami does and make the comeback.''

Turns out the Nuggets needed a big comeback of their own.

''Yeah, you need one of these,'' Brewer said. ''You see the Heat win. They were down 27 last night and they win a crazy game. So, it's fitting for us to win a game like this.''

It might have been the most satisfying of their 14 straight wins, too.

''It was a crazy win,'' Gallinari said. ''We didn't play our best basketball. We know it. Everybody knows it. And to win in this way, even when you don't play your best basketball is a very good sign.''

The Sixers wanted to hold their heads high - but they couldn't quit shaking them in disbelief.

''Effort was there, energy was there, it was closing out the game,'' Turner said. ''That's not what lost the game. Situations occurred. That's some crazy stuff that just happened. The season's been rough. That's one you just shake your head. It seems like a fluke to me.''

Philadelphia coach Doug Collins was agitated at his team's failure to close out a winnable game.

''We had a seven-point lead and the ball,'' Collins lamented. ''I can sit here and do my best TNT (sugar-coating) and the end result is we didn't get it done.''

NOTES: Chandler said his shoulder felt better Thursday but added that he plans to sit out Denver's next two games and hopes to return March 27 against San Antonio. ... Lawson leads the Nuggets with a 16.9-point scoring average. Chandler is averaging 11.8 points and five rebounds.

Review slams Australian swimming's 'toxic' culture

AN independent review commissioned by Swimming Australia in the wake of the disappointing 2012 London Games is damning in its findings of the sport.

The report highlighted a failure of culture and leadership and the creation of “toxic” environment in which winning wasn't everything - it was the only thing.

The review by Melbourne consultant Dr Pippa Grange and commissioned by Swimming Australia claimed “the most significant issue in swimming was the quietly growing lack of focus on people across the board”.

As a result of a failure of leadership and of team culture, swimmers felt they were less members of an Australian Olympic team and more individuals pursuing their own goals and objectives, often feeling neglected or shut out.

“Swimmers described these Games as the lonely Olympics and the individual Olympics,” the report said.

The review cited incidents of “getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, bullying”.

“Situations were left to bleed with not enough follow through for fear of disrupting preparation for competition,” the report said.

“Although few situations relating to London reported through this review were truly grave in nature, they compounded in significance as no one reigned in control.”

The report noted that swimmers were praised for a win and Australia only won a solitary gold medal in the pool in the women's 4x100m freestyle relay or their performances were met with silence.

“People felt the failure very keenly while they were still in the midst of performance. It was a contagious feeling that had a high impact on the mood,” the report said.

“Some athletes let their emotion play out as bravado, withdrawal, disinterest and sulking. This tension was not nipped in the bud ... indeed it was heightened with scuttlebutt and assumptions and diagnoses of doom from the media and the pool deck; things aren't going well.”

The report found the “glorification of a few was seen somewhere between embarrassing and irritating to other team members”.

“One person said he felt that it was not really about whether you swam your heart out, it was about whether you could sell your heart out,” it said.

The report said some older athletes saw the storm brewing and attempted to intervene, but their attempts were seen as being negative and criticising.

“Some individual incidents of unkindness, peer intimidation, hazing and just bad form as a team member that were escalated to personal coaches were not addressed and had no further consequence.”

Head coach Leigh Nugent and some support staff didn't hear about most of the incidents until they returned to Australia.

“Athletes felt disconnected from the head coach, and their sense of duty was localised,” it said.

“Things were managed quietly rather than brought to a head and several examples of coaches passing over the responsibility for hard conversations were given.”

Australian swimmers won just one gold, six silver and three bronze medals at the London Olympics, the lowest return at the pool since the 1992 Barcelona Games.

The swim team entered London amid claims of schoolboy pranks at a lead-in camp, with allegations that senior members of the men's 4x100m freestyle relay team devised an initiation ritual involving taking the prescription sleeping pill Stillnox on a bonding night.

The review recommended creating an ethical framework for Australian swimming - a position of what the sport, governing body and athletes won't stand for, and also stated goals and values.

The review also said internal codes of conduct for swimmers, coaches and staff be updated with reference to team rules at camps and events.

There also should be clear processes designed for managing issues around standards and expectations.

“There is a dire need to develop and enable leadership throughout swimming,” said the report, recommending multi-faceted leadership development programs for athletes.

And the head coach should also undergo an intensive “coach-the-coach” leadership program lasting at least three months.

Subban signs 2-year contract with Canadiens

Defenseman P.K. Subban signed a two-year, $5.75 million contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

''I'm happy to be at this point and I'm looking forward to reintegrating with the team and helping them win,'' Subban said on a conference call. ''It was about getting a deal done that was fair to both sides.''

Subban, who was a restricted free agent, will be paid a prorated $2 million this season and $3.75 million in 2013-14 for an annual salary cap hit of $2.875 million.

The 23-year-old will join the team on Wednesday in Ottawa, but it was unclear if he would play that night against the Senators. If not, he will likely begin his season Saturday afternoon at home against Buffalo.

Subban led the Canadiens in average ice time per game at 24:18 last season. He had seven goals and 29 assists in 81 games and was seventh among NHL defensemen with 205 shots on goal.

In his NHL career, he has 21 goals and 55 assists in 160 games.

Note: The signing came on the same day the Canadiens confirmed that rookies Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher will stay with the NHL club. The 18-year-old Galchenyuk was drafted third overall in June and has a goal and two assists in four games, while the 20-year-old Gallagher has two points.

Cooper blooper doesn't scare Reds coach

Even Quade Cooper's clumsy ways could not convince Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie that boxing was a bad idea for his prized playmaker.

McKenzie could not guarantee Cooper would play their opening trial against the Blues in Toowoomba on February 2 - six days before the five-eighth's professional boxing debut in Brisbane.

However, the coach did not seem concerned by Cooper juggling boxing with rugby like his good mate Sonny Bill Williams despite the increased injury risk.

Not even after Cooper almost took out Queensland teammate Ben Lucas at training on Friday.
'He tripped Benny over and winded him,' McKenzie said.

'But things happen.

'I could fall over walking out the back door.

'I am sure Quade is not going to get involved in boxing if he didn't think he had some capacity.
'And my mail is he has more ability than a lot of you probably think.'

Budding cruiserweight Cooper announced his boxing debut during a 'total communication breakdown' with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU).

They resolved their differences and Cooper announced a two-year ARU deal on Friday, reportedly for $800,000 a season.

Cooper told a Brisbane news conference that he hoped to still contest the Reds' opening trial despite the looming bout before McKenzie interjected: 'Hold on, it's not up to him.

'The boxing was something done in the absence of a contract.

'In terms of another vocation, each to his own but we will worry about that (boxing) when we get closer to it.
'From my perspective, Quade is available for all the matches that matter.'

Asked if he would sit ringside at Cooper's first fight, McKenzie smiled: 'I don't know if I could afford the tickets'.