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International

Narine will not be included in WI’s squad for T20 WC, asserts skipper Pollard

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West Indies limited-overs captain Kieron Pollard has categorically said that all-rounder Sunil Narine will not be added to the 15-member squad of the two-time ICC World T20 champions despite his all-round performance for Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Kolkata Knight Riders in the ongoing season.

Narine came up with a superb performance in IPL 2021 Eliminator against the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to keep his team’s hopes alive of a third IPL title. Narine took four wickets in the match, including that of Kohli, AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell, besides scoring a stroke-filled 26 off 15 balls to help KKR set up a Qualifier 2 showdown with Delhi Capitals later on Wednesday.

Since the resumption of the IPL season in UAE, Narine has snared 11 wickets in eight games, conceding 6.12 runs per over.

The winner of Qualifier 2 will play Chennai Super Kings in the IPL 2021 final, two days before the start of the ICC T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman.

However, Pollard said that Narine would not be included in the squad on the basis of his performance in the IPL, “barring injury or illness” to any player.

“That has been explained. If I add my two cents or my words on how his non-inclusion came about, then it could be spun — just like how he’s bowling on these Sharjah wickets — in all different directions. Let’s deal with the fifteen guys that we have here at this moment in time, which is more important, and see if we can rally around these guys and see if we can defend our title,” Pollard told espncricinfo late on Tuesday.

Narine has not been in the West Indies side since August 2019 for several reasons — notable among them being the controversy surrounding his bowling action — and missed the cut for the T20 World Cup squad last month after “failing to meet Cricket West Indies’ (CWI) minimum fitness criteria”.

CWI’s chief selector Roger Harper was then quoted as saying that, “Narine is a great miss for a team like this in a tournament like this. Any team would miss having a bowler of that quality in the team but… (he) did not make our fitness standards.”

“I have no comments on that. Enough has been said on that. I think persons have explained the reason of his non-inclusion at this point in time. For me personally, I know Sunil Narine as a friend first, before an international cricketer. We grew up playing cricket together. He is a world-class cricketer,” added Pollard.

On Andre Russell’s fitness, who has not played for KKR since September 26 due to an injury, the West Indian skipper said that he was hoping the player would get fit in time for the World Cup.

“Before I make any assumptions as to what he can or he can’t do, we need to do our assessment first as a team. We haven’t had the opportunity to see him. We’ve gotten reports as to what he has done. I wouldn’t want to get into trying to say what he can or can’t do at this point in time.

“He’s (Russell) a critical person for our team and we’d love for him to be 100%, but we have to deal with what’s in front of us. Let’s see what happens over the next couple of days. KKR have another game tomorrow and then, if they get through to the final, on Friday. When we see him as a management staff, we’ll be able to assess and ascertain what he can or can’t do, but we’re looking forward to having a fit Andre Russell if possible.”

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ICC T20 World Cup: Bangladesh high on confidence as they begin campaign vs Scotland

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Australia-vs-Bangladesh

 Bangladesh will be high on confidence when they take on Scotland in a First Round, Group B match at the Al Amerat Cricket Stadium here on Sunday (October 17), having hit top-gear with victories against the two best sides in the world — New Zealand and Australia — at home in August-September this year.

Bangladesh come into the tournament with nine T20I wins in the calendar year, only behind South Africa who have 12. Since losing to New Zealand in March away from home, Bangladesh have been unstoppable in T20Is, registering series wins over Zimbabwe (2-1), Australia (4-1) and New Zealand (3-2).

Over the years, Bangladesh have done enough to shed the tag of underdogs, showing marked improvement across all formats. At the T20 World Cup 2021, they have a chance to showcase just how far they have come in the shortest format of the game.

With form on their side, Bangladesh are favourites to top Group B in the First Round where they have been drawn alongside Scotland, Oman and Papua New Guinea.

The T20 World Cup has not been the happiest of hunting grounds for Bangladesh. They were one of the stories of the inaugural tournament in 2007, when they made it past the first group stage and into the Super 8s but through the 2009, 2010 and 2012 editions they failed to register a single win.

They returned to winning ways in 2014 when the tournament was expanded to 16 teams, topping Group A of the First Round only to lose all four matches in the Super 10 stage. It was a similar story in 2016, where they crashed out in heartbreak after a devastating loss to India. Needing 11 off the last over to stay alive in the tournament, they brought the equation down to two off three balls, only to lose three wickets across those three deliveries, bringing an end to their World Cup dreams. They would once again finish winless in the second stage of a T20 World Cup, going down in their final game against New Zealand.

The big difference for Bangladesh in this edition of the tournament is unlike in the previous six campaigns, they won’t be underdogs — not in the First Round and not in the Super 12 stage if they reach it.

Bangladesh have made steady progress since the 2016 heartbreak, and have hit top gear just in time for the 2021 World Cup. They sit sixth on the ICC T20I team rankings, ahead of the likes of Australia, West Indies and Afghanistan. Their T20I series wins over Australia and New Zealand this year — their maiden series wins over either nation — are testament to how well they are playing this season.

Captain Mahmud Ullah, who recently became the country’s most successful T20I captain after surpassing Mashrafe Mortaza in the first T20I against New Zealand, is one of several seasoned campaigners in the Bangladesh squad along with Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar and Mushfiqur Rahim. They will form the backbone of the batting line-up. The presence of Afif Hossain lower down adds more depth to the batting lineup.

In the absence of Tamim Iqbal, Bangladesh will be hoping that Mohammad Naim and Liton Das can fill the void at the top of the order. In just 11 games together, the two have become the country’s third most prolific opening partnership in T20Is and Bangladesh will want them to set the World Cup ablaze.

With the ball, Mustafizur Rahman will be tasked with the responsibility to lead the attack. The emergence of Nasum Ahmed since making his T20I debut in March has further strengthened the attack that also consists of Taskin Ahmed, and Mohammad Saifuddin among others.

The squad: Mahmudullah (captain), Mohammad Naim, Soumya Sarkar, Liton Das, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Afif Hossain, Nurul Hasan, Mahedi Hasan, Nasum Ahmed, Mustafizur Rahman, Shoriful Islam, Taskin Ahmed, Saifuddin, Shamim Hossain.

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Biennial World Cup would allow teams ‘to dream’, says FIFA chief Infantino

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Gianni

 FIFA president Gianni Infantino says that a plan to stage the World Cup every two years would provide “a chance to dream” for countries and regions that have never won football’s showpiece tournament.

FIFA’s member associations are set to vote on the proposal in December and, if approved, a radically revamped international calendar could be implemented as soon as 2025.

“Our job is to constantly think about how we can improve football in the world, to make football truly global,” Infantino said at an event in Venezuela’s capital Caracas.

“The FIFA president is president of the 111 countries (and regions) and all those countries (and regions) have the right to dream, a dream like the Vinotinto [Venezuela’s national team] dream. They also have to be able to achieve that dream because if you have to dream for eternity, in the end, you prefer to do other things.”

Infantino said the minds behind the inaugural World Cup in 1930 could not have imagined how much the game would grow and downplayed suggestions that staging the event on a more regular basis would diminish its prestige, reports Xinhua.

“When it was decided to organize a World Cup every four years, more or less 100 years ago, FIFA had 40 countries,” Infantino said. “It’s time to re-analyze the issue.”

He added: “If Messi has to travel 350,000 kilometres to play a World Cup and Cristiano Ronaldo 50,000 to play … I think it’s normal that in June the South Americans are a bit more tired than the Europeans.

“Since 2002, Brazil have not won a single World Cup knock-out match against a European side … Not for 20 years, and that’s Brazil.”

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) and European governing body UEFA have expressed their opposition to the idea of a biennial World Cup. The Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have said they are open to discussing the proposal.

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Dimitrov stuns Medvedev with grand comeback at Indian Wells

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Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov rallied from a set and a double-break down to shock top seed Daniil Medvedev to reach the quarter-finals at the ATP Tour BNP Paribas Open here.

Dimitrov, the 23rd seed rolled back the years as he battled back from 4-6, 1-4 down to move past the Russian 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 and produced one of the comebacks of the season on Wednesday, reaching the quarter-finals in Indian Wells for the first time.

After appearing in total control, Medvedev lost his way, making just 34 percent of his first serves in the second set as Dimitrov forced the World No. 2 into errors with his aggressive game. The Bulgarian won eight straight games and eventually advanced after two hours and 16 minutes.

It is the first time Dimitrov has defeated a top-two opponent since 2016 when he overcame Andy Murray in Miami. The World No. 28 has now reduced his ATP Head2Head deficit with Medvedev to 2-3. Dimitrov will next face eighth seed Hubert Hurkacz after the Pole defeate’ Russia’s Aslan Karatsev 6-1, 6-3.

With his victory, the eight-time tour-level champion is into the quarter-finals at an ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time this season. Dimitrov enjoyed a run to the last eight at the Australian Open in January, where he also beat a top-five player, then-World No. 3 Dominic Thiem.

Fuelled by momentum, Dimitrov, who hit 25 winners in the match, did not let up as he continued to frustrate Medvedev in the decider. He continued to approach the net effectively and sealed his victory when Medvedev hit a forehand long.

Medvedev had won 18 of his past 19 matches on North American soil, capturing his fourth Masters 1000 title in Toronto and his first major at the US Open. The Russian was aiming to reach the quarter-finals in Indian Wells for the first time.

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas too advanced to the quarter-finals, beating Alex de Minaur of Australia 6-7(3), 7-6(3), 6-2 in three hard-fought sets.

In other matches, Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman defeated Casper Ruud of Norway 6-3, 6-3; Hubert Hurkacz of Poland beat Aslan Karatsev of Russia 6-1, 6-3, Taylor Fritz beat Jannik Sinner of Italy 6-4. 6-2; Nikoloz Basilashvili beat Russia’s Karen Khachanov 64, 7-6(6).

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