‘Fearless cricket’ — Bangladesh praised after India near-miss

Bangladesh’s captain Shakib Al Hasan, right, congratulates his Indian counterpart Rohit Sharma after the finals of Nidahas triangular Twenty20 cricket series in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, March 18, 2018. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
Updated 19 March 2018
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‘Fearless cricket’ — Bangladesh praised after India near-miss

COLOMBO: India captain Rohit Sharma praised Bangladesh for their “fearless cricket” after the Twenty20 minnows came within one ball of a shock victory in the tri-series final in Colombo.
Tenth-ranked Bangladesh pushed their illustrious neighbors all the way in Sunday’s final before wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik smashed a six off the last ball to secure a four-wicket win.
With the packed 20,000 crowd cheering India, in anger at Bangladesh’s tactics in the semifinal, Karthik’s eight-ball 29 clinched it after a tense, 167-run chase that saw Bangladesh concede 35 runs off the final two overs.
But Sharma, who gave his team a blazing start with a 42-ball 56, said Bangladesh were a “very good team” who have vastly improved over the past three years.
“(Bangladesh) play fearless cricket, it’s always good. Sometimes, it can bite you when things don’t go your way but that is the style of cricket they want to play,” Sharma told reporters after the final.
“They are certainly a very good team... in the last three years, we’ve seen how they’ve changed their style of cricket.
“A few of the guys who are experienced are nurturing the younger guys.”
Sharma said the unusual Sri Lankan support for his team had been “very crucial” at the R. Premadasa Stadium.
Home fans were angry at Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan briefly withdrawing his batsmen in the final over of their win over Sri Lanka in protest at an umpiring decision.
“We didn’t feel that we were playing outside India,” the captain said. “They supported us throughout the course of 40 overs.”
Wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim, who registered two half-centuries in the series, senior batsman Mahmudullah and skipper Shakib Al Hasan played key roles as the Tigers beat hosts Sri Lanka twice to book the title clash with third-ranked India.
Bangladesh’s Rubel Hossain, who sent down the 19th over in the final that conceded 22 runs, and Soumya Sarkar, who was entrusted with the final six balls which went for 13, were the unfortunate bowlers on the receiving end of Karthik’s explosive innings.
But Sharma had comforting words for Soumya, an occasional medium-pace bowler, after his final ball disappeared for six as Karthik took India to 168 for 6. Soumya conceded just seven runs from his first four deliveries and then had Vijay Shankar caught at long-on with the fifth, leaving India needing five runs.
But his wide half-volley was drilled over the extra cover rope by Karthik as the India dressing room erupted in wild celebrations.
“We always knew Soumya Sarkar is not a premier bowler. He’s a part-time bowler at the most,” said Sharma.
“It can happen to anyone when you bowl those big overs. It’s never easy at the death. The pressure is always on the bowler not the batsman,” he added.
Shakib also lauded the performance of his team, who have never won a T20 match against India in eight meetings so far and have also lost 11 of their last 14 games in the shortest format.
“We were very close but in the end India was on the winning side. Credit goes to them but we cannot take anything away from us for the way we played throughout this tournament,” said Shakib.
“We have showed some good character and played the game in the right spirit and I cannot ask more than that from my team,” the all-rounder added.


What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?

Updated 19 April 2018
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What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?

  • Al-Hilal won their 15th top-flight title this season.
  • Big summer for Saudi Arabia football with the Green Falcons at the World Cup.

Now the Saudi Professional League season is over for another year Arab News can look back at their title tilts and what the big four clubs have to do over the coming months ahead of the next season.

 



AL-HILAL

Finished: Champions

Coaching situation: Ramon Diaz was in charge for much of the season, but was fired in February after setbacks in the Champions League.
Assistant Juan Brown did Okay in the final stretch, but a top-class coach could get more out of this team.

Squad priorities: A reliable goalscorer to support Omar Khribin and with veteran defender Osama Hawsawi leaving for pastures new, a replacement center-back with leadership qualities. Welcoming back the major stars — Carlos Eduardo, Khribin, Nawaf Al-Abed and Salem Al -Dawsari — will be a major boost.

Aim next season: Win the AFC Champions League

 



AL-AHLI

Finished: Second

Coaching situation: Sergiy Rebrov is out of contract at the end of June. His future is likely to depend on how the team fares against Al-Sadd in the second round of the AFC Champions League in May.

Squad priorities: There is not much wrong. The Jeddah giants were the highest scorers in the league last season and had the second best defense. Keeping star midfielder Leonardo fit will help as will a little cover in the center of defense. Star striker Omar Al-Somah fell out with the coach in a public way in the penultimate game of the season. It may be that one of them has to go. The Syrian has been player of the year for three years and has a longer contract than Rebrov.

Aim next season: Win the league. Maintain good performances in Asia.


 
AL-NASSR

Finished: Third

Coaching situation: Krunoslav Jurcic arrived in January and the former Croatian national team boss produced an upswing in results. May just be a temporary appointment and it needs to be sorted quickly.

Squad priorities: Looks good with the Saudi Arabia national team keeper, a strong center-back pairing of Omar Hawsawi and Bruno Uvini and the full-back position seemingly sorted with the January signing of Saad Suhail. They probably need a defensive midfielder and have to keep Junior Kabananga. The DR Congo striker has shown enough in his few weeks at the club to suggest that he could be a real star next season, especially with Leonardo pulling the strings behind him.

Aim next season: A genuine title challenge and getting through the play-offs into  the 2019 AFC Champions League.

 


AL-ITTIHAD

Finished: Ninth

Coaching situation: A bottom half finish is unacceptable for a team with Al-Itithad’s stature and history. Chilean coach Jose Luis Sierra may find that winning domestic cups is no substitute for challenging for the title.

Squad priorities: There is too much reliance on players such as Carlos Villanueva, a creative spark in the team, and Fahad Al-Ansari, the midfield engine, who are the wrong side of 30. The possible return of star winger Fahad Al-Muwallad will help, but an introduction of energy is needed.

Aim next season: Top three and, if the team wins the King’s Cup, a good showing in the 2019 AFC Champions League.