In­dia favourites for T20 crown

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

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.

— Reuters

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