India begins as favorite, Kohli urges calm

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Updated 14 March 2016
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India begins as favorite, Kohli urges calm

NAGPUR: Star batsman Virat Kohli urged his teammates to stay calm Monday amid growing fervour about India's prospects in the World Twenty20, ahead of the host's tricky tournament opener against New Zealand.
After winning 10 of their last 11 T20 internationals, India are red-hot favourites for the World T20 and former batsman Virender Sehwag said last week he was "99 percent certain" they would become the first team to win the trophy for a second time.
But Kohli, who is sometimes regarded as something of a firebrand, tried to put a dampener on expectations in a press conference on the eve of the match in Nagpur and said it was important not to get carried away.
"I think the key is to learn from the past where calmness is required in big tournaments like the ICC (International Cricket Council) events because you can get sort of carried away or over anxious or over excited," said Kohli, who is India's Test captain.
"Both those feelings are not great for any side going into a big tournament.
"What we've learned from playing in big tournaments in the past is that we have to stay as calm as possible and focus on the skills that need to be executed on the field."
India have a woeful track record against the Black Caps in World T20 tournaments, losing four out of their five previous encounters while the other match was rained off.
And although New Zealand have been undermined by inspirational skipper Brendon McCullum's retirement on the eve of the tournament, their performance in warm-up matches shows they are not lacking for firepower.
They thrashed the holders Sri Lanka last Thursday when Colin Munro, Corey Anderson and Grant Elliott all posted half-centuries in rapid time. Skipper Kane Williamson then smashed an entertaining 63 when New Zealand narrowly lost to England in their final warm-up match on Saturday.
India also suffered a rare defeat in what was an unofficial T20 international on Saturday when they lost by four runs to South Africa in another high-scoring match.
With their powerful openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma hitting a purple patch, and the veteran Yuvraj Singh also in good nick, India will expect to post a big total on a batsman-friendly pitch in Nagpur.
Kohli, in top form himself, said rookie Indian bowlers Jaspreet Bumrah and Hardik Pandya would also be crucial to the outcome, saying they had showed few signs of nerves in their fledgling international careers.
"Players like Hardik and Bumrah they have more confidence than when we started out," he said.
"They have performed in different situations and they have brought that confidence with them into the side.
"They have backed their skills and I think this is what has been the x-factor for us."
Like many of his fellow skippers, Williamson believes that India are the team to beat but says his side -- which is still to win a world cup -- do not lack in belief.
"No doubt India will be possibly the favourites for this tournament but I think all the teams will come here thinking they can win it," he said last week.

Spin threat

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson is wary of the threat Indian spinners could pose for his batsmen.
"The pitch will be on the slow side and perhaps take a little turn," Williamson said Monday ahead of the Super 10 opener. "In Indian conditions we can expect spin to play a big part and it's important that we adjust our game accordingly."
The pitch used here for a test match against South Africa last year had been rated as poor by the International Cricket Council with the game ending inside three days.
The World T20 qualifying games also saw the ball turn. That could magnify the challenge in batting against India's Ravichandran Ashwin-led spin attack that also boasts allrounders Yuvraj Singh and Ravindra Jadeja, part-timer Suresh Raina and the backup of Harbhajan Singh.
New Zealand has the added challenge of adjusting quickly to the format as its last engagement was a test series against Australia, but Williamson played down this concern.
"In international games you get to change formats consistently," Williamson said.
Host India is the favorite to win the tournament but starts its campaign against an opposition it has never beaten in four previous meetings, including in the 2007 edition, which India won in South Africa.
"I don't think our previous record has any meaning. We go into the match tomorrow with a clean slate. India is a strong side and Twenty20 cricket is fickle in nature," said Williamson, who has match-winners of his own, such as batsmen Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill and all-rounder Corey Anderson.

Teams
India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh

New Zealand (from): Kane Williamson (captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Martin Guptill, Grant Elliott, Colin Munro, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Adam Milne, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor


‘If home crowds can’t help you, nothing can’, says golf star Rory McIlroy

Updated 17 July 2019
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‘If home crowds can’t help you, nothing can’, says golf star Rory McIlroy

  • The world number three is the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the Claret Jug for the second time on Sunday
  • British Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951

PORTRUSH, United Kingdom: Rory McIlroy said on Wednesday that he is not feeling extra pressure this week as the British Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, and is hoping home fans can help him end a five-year major drought.
The world number three is the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the Claret Jug for the second time on Sunday, despite not having claimed a major title since the 2014 PGA Championship.
He said in the past he struggled being the focus of attention at Irish Opens, although he did win that tournament in 2016.
“I think it’s probably easier this week because it’s such a big tournament,” said McIlroy, who opens his title tilt at Royal Portrush at 0909 GMT on Thursday alongside US Open winner Gary Woodland and England’s Paul Casey.
“You’ve got the best players in the world here, and I don’t feel like I’m the center of attention.
“I’m here to enjoy myself. Hopefully it doesn’t take another 68 years for the tournament to come back here. But at the same time, I mightn’t get an opportunity to play an Open Championship here again.
“I’m really just treating it as a wonderful experience and one that I really want to enjoy.
“I’m going to love being out there and having the crowds and having the support. If that can’t help you, then nothing can.”
McIlroy fired a course-record 61 on the Dunluce Links at the age of just 16 in 2005, and is one of three Northern Irish major champions in the field along with Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.
He said his first memories of Portrush came as a child when watching his father play.
“I remember chipping around the chipping green, being seven or eight years of age, my dad out playing on the Dunluce,” added McIlroy, who played a practice round on Tuesday.
“Portrush ... At least the golf club, has been a big part of my upbringing. It’s sort of surreal that it’s here.
“Even driving in yesterday, when you’re coming in on the road and you look to the right and you’ve got the second tee... I don’t know who was teeing off, maybe (American player) Tony Finau and someone else, (it was) sort of strange to see them here.
“But it’s really cool.”
Since McIlroy’s record the course has been renovated, with the seventh and eighth new holes.
But the 30-year-old said he did not have to spend too much time preparing on the course, such is his familiarity with it.
“I had dinner booked with a parent on Saturday night at 8:00, thinking I’m going to have to spend some time around the greens and just prepare.
“And I got on the road back home and rang them and said, ‘Can we move dinner up?’ Because I finished early. There’s no difference. It’s the same golf course.”
McIlroy has been in strong form this year, winning twice, including the Players’ Championship, and posting 11 top-10 finishes.
He also finished in a tie for second at the Open at Carnoustie last year.
“I think it’s probably the most consistent period of golf I’ve ever played,” the 2014 champion said.