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Sports FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2014

India-Pakistan rivalry on show at World Twenty20 MIRPUR: Traditional rivals India and Pakistan kick-start the Super 10 stage of the World Twenty20 yesterday at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium. Grouped along with another former champion, the West Indies, powerful Australia and a qualifier from Group A of the ongoing preliminary stage, the two teams know it is only the beginning of a testing league competition in the tough Group 2. Pakistan has never beaten India in five meetings in the World Cup and three in the World Twenty20. Pakistan has also won only one of five T20s against India. But India captain Mahendra Singh Dhonis said yesterday that records don’t matter. “A lot of people talk about that (results in ICC world events) but everything depends on what we do on the field,” Dhoni said on the eve of the high-profile game. “In fact, the gap between teams is very narrow and the smaller sides too have the talent to upset top sides in this format.” India looks a little vulnerable with Dhoni missing the recent 50-over Asia Cup in which it lost to both Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Dhoni said it is only a matter of getting

some things right in time. “Our bowling is an area of concern and we also need to get good starts with our batting. If we have wickets in hand, we are always capable of scoring some 10-15 runs above par,” Dhoni said. The Indian spinners will have to make up for an inexperienced pace attack and it could well be a contest between India’s batting lineup, which has the likes of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni, and Pakistan’s bowling, which boasts of pace bowler Umar Gul and off-spinner Saeed Ajmal among others. “They have some very good bowlers like Gul and Ajmal. They also have some good allrounders which makes things difficult for any opposition,” Dhoni said in reference to Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik and Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez. India has played only one Twenty20 international since December 2012 but Dhoni said he was relying on the experience of the cash-rich Indian Premier League for his team. “Our players have the experience of the IPL and also of the conditions here,” said Dhoni,

arguably the most successful captain in limited overs cricket, having led his team to victory in the 2007 World T20, 2011 World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy. Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez said his team would take inspiration from a recent victory in the Asia Cup against India but conceded that Dhoni’s return would bolster the Indian team. “Dhoni’s leadership is a key factor as he has done well over the past five-six years,” Hafeez said. “They’re a good batting side but having played in Bangladesh during the recent Asia Cup we have prepared well.” Hafeez said he was not worried about statistics concerning the teams and that this was not necessarily the all-important game fans on either side of the border make it out to be. “This is not the whole tournament. We have to do well as it is important to strike a good rhythm for the other matches ahead,” he said. Meanwhile, matches of Group 2, which consists of Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa, England and a qualifier, commence in Chittagong tomorrow. — AP

Top seeds take centre stage at World Twenty20

CHITTAGONG: Nepal’s Subash Khakurel plays a shot as Afghanistan’s wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad, right, watches during their ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup match in Chittagong, Bangladesh, yesterday. — AP

Bangladesh progress in World Twenty20 despite loss to HK CHITTAGONG: Hosts Bangladesh crawled into the main draw of the World Twenty20 despite an embarrassing two-wicket defeat by Hong Kong in their final qualifying match in Chittagong yesterday. Skittled out for a paltry 108 in 16.3 overs, Bangladesh risked losing the super 10 stage berth to Nepal if Hong Kong could chase down the target in 13.1 overs. Their bowlers, however, ensured Bangladesh stayed afloat in the tournament but could not stop associate nation Hong Kong from achieving a memorable victory over their test playing rivals with two balls to spare. Bangladesh now join three former champions - India, Pakistan and West Indies - and Australia in Group Two where such sloppy play would invite humiliation. Put into bat, Bangladesh lost two wickets in the first over before Shakib Al Hasan (34) and Anamul Haq (26) steadied the ship. Cheered on by their passionate fans, the home side cruised to 85-3 in the 11th over before their spectacular collapse at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. For Hong Kong, Nadeem Ahmed (4-21) and Nizakat Khan (3-19) wreaked havoc as Bangladesh folded for a below-par score. Hong Kong’s inexperience showed in their wobbly chase but Munir Dar (36) plundered 15 runs off a Farhad Reza over to turn the match on its head and Haseeb Amjad hit a six to score the winning run for them. Earlier, Nepal upset Afghanistan by nine runs in another Group A match for their second victory in the qualifiers. Put into bat, Subash Khakurel (56) and Sharad Vesawkar (37) helped Nepal to a competitive 141-5 before they returned to restrict Afghanistan to 132-8. — Agencies

DHAKA: The World Twenty20 steps up a gear today as cricket’s top eight sides enter the fray, with Pakistan seeking a historic win against India in the second round’s standout clash. Minnows of international cricket have been slogging it out in the expanded 16nation tournament, with two qualifying spots and a chance to join the big boys up for grabs from round one. In the Super-10 stage, Asian giants Pakistan and India will be joined in Group Two by the West Indies, Australia and one of the successful qualifiers. The other qualifier will join South Africa, Sri Lanka, England and New Zealand in Group One with two sides from each group advancing to the semi-finals. The identity of the two qualifiers from round one will be known just hours before Pakistan bid to defeat arch rivals India for the first time at the World Twenty20. “It has nothing to do with history,” Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez told a packed media conference in Dhaka yesterday. “Beating India will be important because a good start will give us momentum in the tournament. “I am glad we are playing India first up. We are all excited about this game. The morale is good because we beat them in the Asia Cup. But we have to be at our best to win.” Unpredictable format Pakistan qualified for the semi-finals in all four editions of the World Twenty20, winning the tournament in 2009 in England after being runners-up to India in the inaugural event in 2007. India, however, have not made the semi-finals since their title win despite the popularity of the T20 Indian Premier League over the last six years. Unpredictable format - For Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, previous results will be irrelevant when the teams take to the field at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in the Bangladeshi capital on Friday evening. “Nothing of the past matters in this game,” he said, reminding critics that India lost just one game at the 2012 edition and yet failed to make the knock-out

rounds. “The matches to follow are as important as the one on Friday, but we are not looking beyond our first game yet.” True to the unpredictable nature of T20 cricket, there have been different champions each time. England won in 2010 and the West Indies triumphed in 2012, adding to the victories for India and Pakistan. Darren Sammy’s West Indies, who open the defence of their title on the back of a confidence-boosting T20 series win against England, boast one of the most destructive batsmen in world cricketopener Chris Gayle. Sri Lanka-the top-ranked T20 side-have prepared by spending more than six weeks in Bangladesh, winning bilateral contests in all three formats before taking the Asia Cup. Australia, hoping to add a first World

T20 title to their packed trophy cabinet, have opted for experience, bringing in 39year-old batsman Brad Hodge and 43year-old spinner Brad Hogg. But the Aussies will miss fearsome fast bowler Mitchell Johnson due to an infected toe, while England will be without the injured Joe Root and Ben Stokes. England are also missing batsman Kevin Pietersen, who was the star of their lone title triumph four years ago. England’s all-time leading run-scorer across all formats was controversially axed following a 5-0 Ashes series loss Down Under, even though he was their highest scorer. South Africa, starting a new era after the recent retirements of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, and New Zealand will also be strong contenders in the wide open tournament. The final is on April 6. — AFP

DHAKA: Pakistan cricketer Shahid Afridi (L), Umar Akmal (2nd L) and Umar Gul (R) stretch at a training session during the ICC World Twenty20 cricket tournament at The Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka yesteday. — AFP

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