Crowdfunding campaign aside, India ice hockey team needs more love

The cash-strapped Indian ice hockey team has so far managed to raise a meagre Rs 7 lakh with only a week to go before the Asia Cup in Kuwait. And it is clearly not enough for the players in the cricket-mad country.

The hashtag #SupportIceHockey started trending in India and entrepreneurs like Anand Mahindra have taken notice.

The hashtag #SupportIceHockey started trending in India and entrepreneurs like Anand Mahindra have taken notice.

The national team says the sport receives government funding only to attend the Olympics or the Asian Games, and the players don’t have the money to travel or for their gear for the International Ice Hockey Federation Challenge Cup.

Vedank Singh, the digital marketing head of the Ice Hockey Association of India who launched the crowdfunding campaign on Saturday using the Twitter hashtag #SupportIceHockey, said the team does not have even “basic facilities”.

Vedank, who tweets with the handle @bhaiyyajispeaks, came up with the idea of going to people for funding as there was lack of sponsors.

The hashtag #SupportIceHockey started trending in India and entrepreneurs like Anand Mahindra have taken notice. Mahindra, the head of the $16.5-billion conglomerate Mahindra Group, tweeted that he had “decided to support these passionate athletes”.

“Many influential people have come forward to support us but the team is still awaiting its first sponsorship contract. Even Mahindra called us up and assured of support after he noticed the tweets,” Vedank told HT.

But the team still needs more money to fund their entire trip to the tournament.

“We have already booked the tickets worth Rs 12 lakh and paid the amount using our credit cards. That is the bare-minimum we need in order to reach the tournament venue. The players also need funds to buy new equipment, as they have been using the same sticks, gloves and pads for the past 5-6 years,” says Harjinder Singh, general secretary of the association.

“We are definitely going to participate in the tournament whether we find sponsors or not,” adds Singh.


Concerns for the future And even as efforts are on to raise funds for the game through crowdfunding, the future of the team is a bigger worry for the association. The national team, which registered its first international victory by beating Macau 5-1 at the Challenge Cup of Asia (CCOA) in 2012, has been practicing at iSkate, an ice skating rink that is 1/3rd the size of an international one in a Gurgaon mall. “The open rinks in Leh-Ladakh region are bigger in size but CCOA tournaments are held in March-April when there is no ice in Leh. So, we are forced to practice in smaller indoor rinks,” says Harjinder. India has only one rink in Dehradun that is the size stipulated by the International Ice Hockey Federation. But it is lying defunct. Ice hockey is relatively unknown on the sub-continent, although forms of the game have been played for decades in parts of the Himalayas.  

In the early ’70s, Ladakh Scouts – a battalion of the Indian Army – picked up the game which was introduced in India by the British, who introduced the sport in Shimla. The game has slowly, but steadily, gained popularity amongst the troops.

The ironic part is that the gear for ice hockey is still not available in Ladakh. Most locals ask their friends or relatives living outside the state to send them skates.

Due to the lack of accessible equipment, Ladhakis began to improvise with the first teams obtaining ice skating blades from Shimla, the only place in India where ice sports gear is readily available, and nailing them to army ammunition boots. Roller skates and ground hockey sticks were also used. To create pucks, locals cut the thick, rubber heels of army boots into a rounded shape.

Goalkeepers wore ground hockey pads but lacked helmets; neither helmets nor knee and elbow pads were used by other players. Despite injuries due to lack of protective gear, the game has continued to grow in popularity in the region.

The national team now mainly has army jawans from the Ladakh Scouts, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and locals playing for it.

‘My father forced me to quit’

Tsewang Gyaltson, who was declared the captain of the Indian team on Wednesday, took admission in a college in Dehradun with the prospect of polishing his trade at the then newly opened rink there.

His parents made him quit the sport as they wanted their son to have a secure future.

“My parents forced me to quit the sport for a while. But, I started playing again after moving to Dehradun. I still study in Dehradun, but there is no rink for me to play there,” says Gyaltson.

One of the keepers in the team, Rigzin Dorjuy says he’s fortunate to be a part of ITBP, which arranges for his gear.

“My pads are worth Rs 1.2 lakh and the shoes came for Rs 36,000. Some of the boys on the team play with rented equipment,” says Dorjuy.

Passionate players

Their coach Adam Sherlip believes it is very important for these players to be able to make their living out of the sport. The government should ensure that there is a year-round development program in place, he says.

Sherlip, who also doubles up as a physio, says, “These boys are very passionate and it’s fun coaching them. This is just my way of giving back to the game that I love.

“India happened to me by chance. I was coaching a New York team and when we came to play in China, I came across Ladakh.”

Sherlip scouts for young talent in Leh-Ladakh and also runs The Hockey Foundation which provides training and equipment to young kids.

Hakim Giri, the assistant coach is a physical education teacher in Ladakh, who dons the coaching coat every time the team needs him.

The sport is picking up in states like Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh. The nationals also see participation of teams from Chandigarh and Delhi.

“Maharashtra have been participating for the past 2 years. Their players practice in the skating rink in Essel World,” says Harjinder.

Even after three years of the national team’s impressive win against Macau, the Union sports ministry is yet to notice its achievement.

The ministry gives a meagre Rs 1 lakh for conducting national championships once a year. Not only is the amount paltry to host such an event, arranging air transportation and stay in Ladakh for the participating teams also becomes a task.

And Ladakh Scouts provide accommodation to the participating teams.


So now it’s time enough for all sports enthusiasts to shower a little love on the team and add a little more to their funds here:

Rain, Duckworth-Lewis inflict familiar World Cup pain on South Africa

South Africa were going great guns against New Zealand in the semifinal at Auckland’s Eden Park, when rain made an appearance at the end of the 38th over on Tuesday. A familiar South African bogey — Messrs Duckworth-Lewis — kicked in when play resumed and the Proteas got just 5 overs to go hammer and tongs.

Grant Elliott produced a masterful 84* to take New Zealand to victory, leaving South Africa to ponder , yet again, what could have been had the rain stayed away given them a chance to complete 50 overs.

Whenever the Duckworth-Lewis method comes into play in crucial rain-affected World Cup games involving South Africa, there is little joy for the rainbow nation.

1992 semi-final: Start of a rocky relationship with ‘rain’
Sydney Cricket Ground
South Africa were in their first World Cup and made it to the semi-final against England. New rain rules had been introduced in the tournament for the first time to make rain-shortened games fairer.

Put in to bat, England scored 252/6 in 45 overs. The innings was curtailed as South Africa had a slow over rate, for which they were later fined.

South Africa began their chase well and were on their way to victory, needing 47 runs off the last 5 overs with four wickets in hand. David Richardson (now the ICC CEO) and Brian McMillan reduced the required runs to 22 off 13 balls. That was when catastrophe struck.

Rain grew heavy and the umpires asked the players what they wanted to do. While South Africa wanted to go on, England skipper Graham Gooch was adamant that he wanted to take his players off as they were struggling with a wet ball and sodden outfield.

Rain soon stopped and only 12 minutes were lost. The new rules stated that overs would be deducted for any time lost — and the scoreboard showed 22 runs needed off 7 balls. This later turned out to be a farce, as moments later the target was revised to 22 off 1 ball.

This too was wrong because the actual requirement was 21 off 1 ball!

The crowd was unhappy, so was the South African dressing room. They took a single off the last ball and stomped off the field.
2003 Group Stage: Rain, brain freeze, D/L math pangs
Kingsmead, Durban

South Africa were the hosts, and with a team consisting of star players such as Shaun Pollock, Herschelle Gibbs, Lance Klusener, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, Makhaya Ntini and Gary Kirsten, home fans were a confident lot.

South Africa had been fending off an uncomfortable ‘chokers’ tag and this was the perfect setting to cast it off.

Rain, brain freeze and mangled calculations saw them crash out in the group stage.

Sri Lanka rode on Marvan Attapattu’s century to post 268/9. Herschelle Gibbs scored 73 to get South Africa going. Play was called off after the 45th over with the Proteas placed at 229 for 6.

At the end of the 44th over, the dressing room sent a message to Mark Boucher, who was going great guns then, that 229 at the end of the 45th over would ensure them victory as per D/L if they did not lose any more wickets.

Boucher and Klusener took 13 runs off the first 5 balls of Muralitharan’s over. Boucher pumped his fist in the air after sending the 5th ball flying over the boundary. He defended the last ball under the impression that they had already won. Covers were brought on.

Boucher’s jubilation first turned into confusion and then despair. The instructions sent to him had been wrong. South Africa needed 229 for a tie, and they needed an outright win to advance to the Super Sixes. All their hope of lifting the title came crashing down.
2015 Group Stage: D/L makes its presence felt
Eden Park, Auckland

Courtesy D/L, South Africa had to score 232 to win after dismissing Pakistan for 222 on Saturday. The game had been reduced to 47 overs a side.

Pakistan’s fast bowlers ripped through the Proteas top order, but many a South African fan will feel aggrieved with the extra runs added on by D/L method.
2015 semi-final: Rain gods land a cruel blow
Eden Park, Auckland

After recovering from early inroads created by New Zealand bowlers, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis were doing a great job of rebuilding the innings. Both of them shifted gears in the 31st over and started scoring at a brisk pace. They dealt mostly in boundaries in the 4 overs of batting powerplay (35th-38th over) they got before rain intervened.

The rain then played hide-and-seek for almost an hour-and-a-half.

When play resumed, the match was reduced to 43 overs a side. David Miller provided impetus in these final overs to ensure that South Africa posted 282 on the board. New Zealand got a D/L target of 298.

Brendon McCullum came out all guns blazing and scored 59 off 26 balls to set Kiwis on course for victory. After a few hiccups, and a few reprieves New Zealand romped home with 4 wickets in hand and 1 ball remaining. De Villiers was sporting enough to credit the victory to New Zealand, saying, “The better team won.”

But the loss of momentum South Africa suffered due to the rain delay will hurt and haunt. Minus the rain, South Africans — even neutral cricket fans, if there are any — would believe the final score would have been way higher.

McCullum acknowledged as much in the post-match presentation ceremony, saying his thoughts when the rain came were that it should “continue”.

Another World Cup, another heartbreak and going solely by empirical evidence, the D/L method is unlikely to get much love from South Africa.

World Cup: 10 chartbuster clashes that lit up the event

Kapil Dev’s 175* against Zimbabwe in 1983 will topline any such list in India, but that’s a standalone story in itself. That said and homage paid to that great knock, there have been many other mouthwatering contests in the World Cup. Here’s a pick of 10.

South Africa vs Australia
1999 semifinal, Edgbaston, England
Match tied

South Africa had to chase down 213 to book a place in the final. First, Shane Warne happened, then the stutter, and, finally, nerves.

Before that, Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan had battled a rampaging Shaun Pollock (5/36) and Allan Donald (4/32) to take Australia past 200, from a precarious 68 for 4.

South Africa began on a positive note, reaching 48 for no loss. Then Warne made his play, bowling Gibbs and pumping up his team with a primal and lingering “Come On”.

He dismissed the other opener, Gary Kirsten, with the South African score at 53. Proteas skipper Hansie Cronje fell for 0 at the same team total, to the same bowler.

Bevan ran out Daryll Cullinan and South Africa were at a slippery 61 for 4.

Jacques Kallis and Jonty Rhodes rebuilt the innings. South Africa needed 70 off the last 10 overs with 6 wickets in hand.

Glenn McGrath, Damien Fleming and Paul Reiffel started putting the squeeze. Warne prised out Kallis and Reiffel dismissed Rhodes. Pollock blasted 20 off 14 balls before being cleaned up by Fleming. McGrath rattled the dangerous Boucher’s stumps.

South Africa stood at 205/9 at the end of the 49th over, needing 9 runs with Lance Klusener and Allan Donald at the crease.

‘Zulu’ Klusener, who had set the World Cup alight with fearsome hitting, smacked boundaries off the first 2 balls off Fleming. The scores were level.

Aussie skipper Waugh brought up the field. Klusener went for a big one on the third ball but the shot found Darren Lehmann. Donald set off for a single but Klusener sent him back. A direct hit would have seen the end of Donald, but Lehmann missed.

Klusener dug out the next one, a yorker, a bit wide outside off stump, and the ball trickled past the bowler. As mid-off Mark Waugh swooped in, Klusener set off for a winning single. This time it was Donald who seemed unaware of the existent run. As soon as he realised his folly, he ran.

By the time Donald took off, Klusener was next to him. The bat fell from Donald’s grip as he turned (he was trying to get back into the crease) and ran. Waugh flicked the ball acrobatically to Fleming, who rolled it to Gilchrist. The Aussie keeper took off the bails. Klusener kept running to the dressing room, glancing back once briefly.

Tied! Australia advanced to the finals due to a higher finish in the Super Six stage.

Australia vs Zimbabwe
1983 group match, Trent Bridge, England
Zimbabwe won by 13 runs

Zimbabwe had won an ICC Trophy in 1982 to book a berth in the World Cup, where they were clubbed in a group featuring West Indies, India and Australia.

Zimbabwe played their 1st group match against Australia.

This was the first World Cup upset. After the match, Australian captain Kim Hughes said his side had been completely outplayed.

Put in to bat, Zimbabwe found themselves reeling at 94 for five. Dunchan Fletcher, the Zimbabwe skipper (India’s coach now) took the attack to the Aussies and hammered a 84-ball 69*. Zimbabwe managed to set a target of 240 in 60 overs.

Fletcher then rolled his arm over to return figures of 4 for 42 from 11 overs. Zimbabwe fielded as if their lives depended on it.

The big guns were not bowled out, but they could not break the shackles and ended 226/7. That day, the world-beaters that they would eventually become, fell short by 13 runs, with wickets in the bank.

England vs Australia
2003 Group Match, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Australia won by two wickets

Australia’s perennial 12th man Andy Bichel saved his team the blushes with his all-round performance.

This encounter between England and Australia produced only 412 runs, but still went down to the wire. Bichel picked up 7 for 20 to restrict England to 204. Cameos from Alec Stewart and Andrew Flintoff took England to 204.

Australia made a mess of the chase and collapsed to 135 for 8. Australia’s finisher Michael Bevan was running out of partners. Out came Bichel and smashed a 36-ball 34.

The B&B show took Australia past the finish line with 2 balls to spare.

Australia vs West Indies
1975 Final, Lord’s, England
West Indies won by 17 runs

Australia and West Indies took part in a fierce and enthralling contest to lay claim to the first World Cup. Not only did this game witness a fine display of cricketing skills, it even had moments which had the audience in splits.

Riding on captain Clive Lloyd’s 102*, West Indies reached 291 in the stipulated 60 overs. The Australian pace trio of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Gary Gilmour came out all guns blazing, but Lloyd and Rohan Kanhai stood tall and strong.

Australia’s chase got done in by run outs, with five of their batsman being dismissed that way. A young and irrepressible Vivian Richards effected three of them.

Lillee and Thomson added 41 brisk runs for the last wicket but fell 18 runs short of the target. Not only did Lillee and Thompson make the ball fly around the park, they also did not hold back while dishing out cusses.

ODI cricket had made a mark and Kerry Packer was lurking around the corner.

India vs Pakistan
2003 group match, Centurion, South Africa
India won by 6 wickets

India versus Pakistan is one of the most ferocious rivalries in the sports arena. If technology could tap into the energy of the players, the crowd at the ground and the millions watching it on TV, it could light up all the houses and power reactors in both countries, at least that day.

When the World Cup is the stage, the encounter acquires an edge more fierce than what even the most advanced razors can produce.

Pakistan rode on the brilliant Saeed Anwar’s century to set India a target of 274. India had never successfully chased more than 222 in a World Cup match.

Sachin Tendulkar took on the Pakistani pace battery. He played drives off Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis while saving the pulls and hoicks for Shoaib Akhtar.

‘Rawalpindi Express’ Akhtar was marked out for special treatment. Tendulkar narrowly missed out on a century and was dismissed for 98 for 75 balls. Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj Singh and Rahul Dravid took India to victory with 26 balls to spare.

Sri Lanka vs South Africa
2003 group match, Durban, South Africa
Match tied (D/L method)

Being eliminated in the previous World Cup after their tied semifinal against Australia was hurting. It happened again.

South Africa needed a win to advance to the Super Sixes. Sri Lanka won the toss and batted. A century from Marvan Attapatu and 73 from ‘Mad Max’ Aravinda de Silva helped their team reach 268.

As storm clouds hovered over Durban, the hosts knew that they had to keep abreast with Duckworth-Lewis (D/L) targets in case the match ended prematurely.

When rain halted play after the 45th over, South Africa had reached 229 with Mark Boucher and Lance Klusener (Zulu again!) on the crease.

The batsmen and home crowd started celebrating as they thought they had met the D/L target. The total, however, required was 230. The Proteas were one run short. No further play was possible and the match ended in a tie, ending South Africa’s World Cup dreams for a second successive tournament.

Australia v England
1987 final, Calcutta, India
Australia won by 7 runs

This was the closest finish in a World Cup final. Australia were coming together as a unit after the Kim Hughes era under the fiercely competitive and beard-scratching Allan Border. England had taken down India in the semifinal. Inevitably, Australia were the home side.

David Boon scored 75 to ensure that Australia posted a competitive 253. England seemed to be on the right track at 135 for two after 31 overs.

This was when Mike Gatting, the England captain, suffered a brain freeze. He played a reverse sweep off Border, only to be caught behind.

Australia capitalised and restricted England to 246/ 8.

India v England
2011 group match, Bangalore, India
Match tied

A total of 676 were scored, 18 wickets taken, but no result.

India smashed England bowlers to score an imposing 338. Sachin Tendulkar scored 120, while Gambhir and Yuvraj racked up fifties.

The total would have been enough had it not been for Andrew Strauss. He made a mockery of the total and England seemed to be cruising at 280 for 2 after 43 overs.

An in-swinging Zaheer Khan delivery brought the Chinnaswamy crowd back to life as it struck Strauss plumb in front. England then suffered a mini-collapse, and needed 29 off the last two overs. Cameos from Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann ensured that England equalled India’s total.

England vs Zimbabwe
1992 Group Match, Albury, Australia
Zimbabwe won by nine runs

England, one of the favourites for the Cup, had to score a paltry 135 to win. Their batting line-up was: Gooch. Botham. Lamb. Smith. Hick. Fairbrother. Stewart.

Graham Gooch was dismissed off the first ball of the innings and what followed was harakiri. Zimbabwean bowlers stuck to a disciplined line, while the Englishmen kept throwing their wickets at regular intervals. At 43 for 5, Stewart joined Fairbrother for the biggest stand of the match, a painfully slow 52 in 24 overs.

Fairbrother, still suffering from a stomach infection, batted for more than two hours without reaching the boundary. England narrowly ran out of wickets in the last over.

Zimbabwe earned their first points of the competition and their first win after 18 defeats since beating Australia on their World Cup debut in 1983.

Ireland v Zimbabwe
2007 Group match, Sabina Park, West Indies
Match tied

Ireland were playing their first World Cup match and the battle of minnows turned out to be a fiercely contested one.

Ireland scored 221 riding on Australia-born left-hander Jeremy Bray’s century. The second highest score in the innings was 28 from Andrew White.

Vusi Sibanda got Zimbabwe off to a flying start and they reached 2 for 92. The scenario turned upside down in less than an hour and Zimbabwe found themselves teetering at 133 for 5.

Stuart Matsikenyeri staged a fightback and Zimbabwe seemed set to win, needing 19 runs off 39 balls with five wickets in hand.

Ireland’s tight efforts on the field paid off and they effected 3 run outs in the final two overs. Nerves did Zimbabwe in, as Matsikenyeri scored a heroic 73*.

Luck of the Irish or beginner’s luck, call it what you may, this was Ireland’s day.

It’s not cricket: no grand welcome for Indian hockey team

Indian hockey has given us much joy recently, being the focal point of a flurry of chest-thumping on Facebook, Twitter. The appreciation, however, still might not be enough to bring the sport into the mainstream of public mind space.

Case in point: the lukewarm response Indian team skipper Sardar Singh and his boys received Tuesday at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on their triumphant return from Australia.

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Viswanathan Anand: The nice guy who finished first

“I’ve learnt from Anand but I think I showed him in a way that although he has taught me many things in the past, now it’s probably my turn to teach him.”

 These were Magnus Carlsen’s exact words after defeating Viswanathan Anand in the FIDE World Chess Championship Match that was held in Chennai last year. The final scoreline read Carlsen-6.5: Anand-3.5. Carlsen won 3 games and 7 games were drawn. Anand could not muster a single victory.

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So you think Chess is all about brains, you couldn’t be more wrong

The debate whether Chess is a sport has been going on since times of yore. Many detractors say that there is no physical effort invovled in Chess.

 Chess, unlike popular notion, is not only brains. There is a fair bit of brawn. It is a non-contact sport, but players fight it out tooth and nail. Tigran Petrosian lost 30 pounds in his match with Mikhail Botvinnik. Anatoly Karpov was thoroughly exhausted after his first match with Gary Kasparov in 1984.

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Amol Muzumdar: Indian cricket’s almost man

All Indian cricket fans are aware of the 664-run partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli during the 1988 inter-school Harris Shield tournament.

Amol Muzumdar with his Coach Archerekar Sir before he announced his retirement from first class cricket (Prakash Parsekar/HT Photo)

Amol Muzumdar with his Coach Archerekar Sir before he announced his retirement from first class cricket (Prakash Parsekar/HT Photo)

Tendulkar went on to win the highest laurels in the game of cricket, while Kambli had his moment of fame before fading away.

What very few know is that the next batsman slotted to come in this game was the 13-year-old Amol Muzumdar, who had put his pads on since the fall of the first wicket. Unfortunately for him Kambli and Tendulkar remained unbeaten and the innings was declared. This wait in many ways symbolizes his career, where he kept waiting for a call up to the national team, but the oppurtunity eluded him every time.

Amol Muzumdar called it a day after plying his trade in the domestic circuit for 21-years. He holds the record for being the highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy. He amassed 11167 runs from 171 first-class matches, which included 30 centuries.

Muzumdar started off his Ranji career with Mumbai, where he was handed the captaincy in 2006-07. Despite a poor start to the season, he led his side to the title.

After spending 15 years with Mumbai, he moved to Assam in 2009 and later to Andhra.

Muzumdar arrived on the Ranji circuit with a bang, scoring 260 in his maiden game in 1993-94 breaking the world record for the highest score made on first class debut, a record that still stands.

The scintillating debut was followed by many consistent knocks which saw him being billed as ‘the next Sachin Tendulkar’. He ended up winning seven Ranji titles with Mumbai.

Muzumdar made a very strong case for a call up to the national team, but Indian middle-order then boasted of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Mohammad Azharuddin, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman.

The man did no wrong, but for the fact that he was at his peak in an era dominated by the ‘Big 4’ in Indian cricket. Muzumdar though leaves behind a proud record in Ranji cricket and joins the pantheon of Mumbai batting legends.

Indian women’s cricket team: Poor cousins of the million dollar babies

There’s a scene in the movie ‘Chak De India’ where the Indian women’s hockey team has to go up against the men’s team in order to go to the World Championships. They lose the match, but eventually end up being sent for the tournament anyway for the spunk they display during the match. They go on to clinch the championship and become World Champions.
The Indian women’s cricket team must be ruing the fact that they never got such a chance. All they got was a ‘NO’ from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

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Time to award a Bharat Ratna to Sam Manekshaw

In the next couple of days, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will confer Bharat Ratna upon an individual who has rendered great service to the nation.

The top contenders are ex-PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, hockey wizard Major Dhyan Chand, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and social reformer Kanshi Ram. Contributions of these four have been overlooked over the years and they deserve recognition and accolades for their unflagging service.

Modi sarkaar though needs to look into one more name who has never even come close to being considered for the highest award of the country – Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw.

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