India favourites for T20 crown
NEW DELHI — Hosts India are favourites to clinch the sixth edition of the World Twenty20 in what could be a fairytale ending to the glittering career of captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
India, ranked number one in the world, will seek to become the first side to win the International Cricket Council (ICC) title on home soil.
They are also gunning to become the tournament’s only two-time winners, with South Africa, Australia and the mercurial West Indies shaping as leading threats.
Australia, the top-ranked Test side, are desperate to win their first World Twenty20 crown, while Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir will play his first ICC tournament since returning from a five-year spot-fixing ban.
India come into the tournament on the back of an eight-wicket win over Bangladesh in the Asia Cup final, and have several key batsmen and bowlers in form.
“We are on track for the World T20,” a confident Dhoni said after Sunday’s victory.
India’s hot streak of 10 wins from their last 11 T20 internationals, coupled with their vast and boisterous home support means Dhoni’s men will be tough to beat.
“I think India will win. Their players know the pitches and they’re playing good cricket against the best teams in the world at present,” said West Indies legend Brian Lara.
India also have added incentive to lift the trophy on 3 April at Eden Gardens in Kolkata because of the fact that the tournament, which began on Tuesday, may mark Dhoni’s swansong.
Dhoni, who led India to the inaugural title in 2007, has struggled with the bat of late and turns 35 this summer. A second World Twenty20 crown would be a fitting end to the wicketkeeper’s career.
In-form batsman Virat Kohli and deadly offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin are expected to be the key men for India, who are hosting the championship for the first time.
The home side start their campaign against New Zealand on 15 March before playing archrivals Pakistan in Dharamsala four days later in a hotly awaited clash.
Pakistan endured a disastrous Asia Cup, thanks largely to some atrocious batting, and any hopes they have of making an impression will rely on the performances of the controversial Amir.
The 23-year-old fast bowler was banned and jailed for deliberately sending down no-balls in a Test match against England in 2010.
But he has been in good touch since re-entering the international fold earlier this year, and lit up the Asia Cup with a devastating 3-18 spell in Pakistan’s loss to India.
“The way he bowled... it didn’t look as if he was making a comeback after five long years. It was a treat to watch,” former Pakistan captain and now Afghanistan coach Inzamam-ul-haq said.
Second-ranked South Africa are hoping to spoil India’s party and come into the tournament full of confidence following a T20 series whitewash against England.
The Proteas have never won the World Twenty20 but anything less than the final will be considered a failure for the Faf du Plessisled side, who boast top run-scorers AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla and leg-spinner Imran Tahir.
Defending champions Sri Lanka are a shadow of the side that won in Bangladesh two years ago and have struggled to come to terms with the void left by legends Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
The West Indies’ tilt at a second title have been hit by injury withdrawals and a bitter pay dispute with squad members arguing with the country’s board over fees to play in the tournament.
Experienced batsman Darren Bravo, allrounder Kieron Pollard and off-spinner Sunil Narine are all out but it would be unwise to write off the third-ranked Windies, especially when they boast the big-hitting Chris Gayle.
The preliminary round started on Tuesday, with Afghanistan and Bangladesh favourites to join the big eight teams in the Super 10 group stage — AFP SWITZERLAND — Professional fighters will feature at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics as long as a constitutional change goes through in June, the president of the international boxing federation AIBA said yesterday.
Last month’s decision by AIBA to begin procedures to open the door for pro boxers to compete alongside amateurs at the August Games means the sport could get increased exposure with potentially big-name fighters taking part. The move, though, has also earned a lot of criticism as many argue it would be unfair to the thousands of amateurs who have trained for the Games for years and now have to possibly make way for the pros.
“Professional boxers will be at Rio. I don’t know how many but they will be,” AIBA boss Ching-kuo Wu said. “But they will have to go through the same procedures as everyone else. “What we have to do is just amend the constitution of AIBA and we will do that at an extraordinary congress in June. The constitution is the only thing blocking this at the moment.”
Boxers qualify for the Games in a series of regional events, many starting later this month. Wu said after the constitutional amendment goes through, professionals could book their tickets for Rio at the final world Olympic qualifying tournament in Azerbaijan in mid-june.
There are doubts, however, over whether professional world champions would want to jeopardise their careers by taking part in three-round contests that bear little resemblance to paid bouts.
Amateur boxing has had its share of Olympic champions who have gone on to become top professionals, among them Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Vladimir Klitschko.