Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni sought to downplay expectations yesterday about his side’s prospects at the World Twenty20 despite starting as roaring favourites to win the title on home turf.
Dhoni’s men have been on a roll since the start of the year, winning 10 out of 11 Twenty20 internationals, with the latest being a comprehensive title-winning triumph at the weekend over Bangladesh in the Asia Cup. Their recent form even led former opener Virender Sehwag to proclaim that the world’s number one team had a “99 percent” chance of winning the trophy for a second time. India won the inaugural edition in 2007 and are gunning to become the tournament’s only two-time winners.
Dhoni however refused to be pulled down by the weight of expectations, focusing instead on taking one game at a time. “When it comes to expectations, I don’t think it is any lesser than what it was in the 2011 World Cup,” Dhoni, 34, said, referring to India’s winning campaign at home that year in the 50-over format.
“We don’t think too much about the expectations, the reason being it can put you under pressure,” he said at a press conference in Kolkata. “We are looking to make a slow and steady progress, rather than think too far ahead,” said the wicket-keeping batsman, who is widely expected to retire at the end of the tournament.
India, hosting the format’s world cup for the first time, boast a string of players in form, starting with captain-in-waiting Virat Kohli. Kohli, who already captains India in Tests, has nine fifties in his last 14 Twenty20 innings, and averages over 50 in the format.
Openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have also hit a purple patch while the bowlers have impressed too, including the wily off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. With the players looking well-settled, Dhoni said he saw no reason to tinker with team strategy.
“We are running on the sixth gear (although) I know the technology has gone into the eighth gear,” he quipped. “We have to keep our intensity up and focus should be there right from the very first ball. I think everything is set. I don’t think there are any more gears left for us to operate.”
India start their campaign against New Zealand next Tuesday followed by a much-awaited clash with archrivals Pakistan in the northern hill town of Dharamsala on March 19.
The final will be played on April 3 at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
Rohit dismisses Pak pacer Amir, praises Bumrah
Kolkata: Expressing dismay over the hype surrounding Pakistan speedster Mohammad Amir, star India opener Rohit Sharma yesterday heaped lavish praise on his teammate pacer Jasprit Bumrah and hailed him as a special cricketing talent.
Mohammad Amir (left) had dismissed Rohit Sharma in Asia Cup T20. (AFP)
Interacting with the media, Sharma appeared displeased when his views were sought on Amir who returned to international cricket recently following a five-year ban after being found guilty of spot-fixing in 2010.
“Amir is not the only bowler, there are other bowlers doing well for them (Pakistan). There is so much hype surrounding him, I don’t think there is a need for that. He just returned to cricket, let him perform for at least a year then we can judge,” said Rohit.
The flamboyant batsman also criticised people for comparing Amir with pace legend Wasim Akram. “He is talented, he is good, but then he needs to prove that over and over. I don’t think it’s appropriate to create so much of hype surrounding him.
“People even have started comparing him to Wasim Akram, this is so very wrong. Let him at least achieve even a little of Akram’s exploits, then we can talk of him. He is just a normal bowler, it’s not that he blows away batsmen every time he bowls. I don’t think he deserves so much of hype,” said the Mumbaikar.
Talking about the Indian bowlers, Rohit was all praise for old warhorse Ashish Nehra and the youngster Bumrah. “Instead of Amir we should talk about Bumrah, a rare talent who has already started to make a mark.
“Of course he has long way ahead, but the way Bumrah has started, I think he will do something special for the country,” said Rohit. Rohit picked out ‘unpredictability’ as a major weapon for Bumrah who so far has taken 15 scalps from 11 T20 internationals.
“The best thing about him is he is very unpredictable. You really don’t know what will he doing when he is bowling. In fact it is quite difficult to pick him up during the net.
“He has got everything in his bag, he has got a good bouncer, a good yorker and a slower ball, he has everything what a modern day bowler needs,” added Rohit.
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