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El Tri’s Gold Cup group perfection worth plenty

first_imgMexico didn’t have the strongest close to its group stage.El Tri manager Tata Martino was fuming after his team topped Martinique by just a goal. That’s understandable. The manager holds his team to a higher standard than simply results. The performance on the field wasn’t up to par for what we usually see from Mexico and certainly not what the team has shown early in the Martino era.A team with a mix of professional players and amateurs pushed El Tri nearly to the brink, putting a scare in the region’s biggest power. While fans aren’t necessarily at their panic stations, morale is suddenly at the lowest point it has been since Martino took charge in January. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Yet, getting out of the group with three victories is nothing to sneeze at. Mexico has done it just once before at the Gold Cup, with Chepo de la Torre guiding the team past a tough group that included the base of a Costa Rica team that would go on to the World Cup quarterfinals three years later and an El Salvador squad not yet rocked by a match manipulation scandal.It’s not common for Mexico or any other team to roll through the group with only victories. Before Mexico this year, the United States was the last team to do it. That was back in 2013, ages ago for a tournament contested every two years. In addition to El Tri, Jamaica also got through its group unscathed in 2011. The Americans also got three wins in 2007, the second tournament in which Concacaf used four-team groups.The historic accomplishment may be diminished with the fact that Concacaf expanded the tournament, adding four more teams for this edition. After all, the door also is open for Panama or the United States to also go through with nine points on the final day of group play.  But Mexico’s group featuring Canada, a former champion, Martinique and Cuba are hardly Gold Cup newcomers and it’s the only one in which every team will take part in League A of the Concacaf Nations League. The other thing to consider is how Martino was able to use the group stage to prepare his team well for the knockouts. In the build-up to the tournament, it looked like Mexico would reach the knockouts with a team hard-hit by injuries. Now, with the exception of Erick Gutierrez, it seems everyone is fresh.Martino has a healthy group and a well-defined starting XI that also can lean on players to come in as substitutes and make a difference after big performances in the group stages. No player is a better example of that than Uriel Antuna, who scored four goals and had an excellent assist in the group stage after nearly missing out on the roster. It’s not just the LA Galaxy attacker, though. Carlos Rodriguez and Jonathan dos Santos are essentially even at the right interior midfielder slot. Fernando Navarro proved himself a capable back-up at right back. With Rodolfo Pizarro and Hector Moreno back to full fitness, they should slot into the lineup and bring their skills and experience to a Mexico team that already includes plenty.That said, the margin for error is now slim. Lay a dud against Costa Rica on Saturday, and the tournament is over. “This isn’t something we might have hidden since before starting the tournament. We’ve always said it, and nothing changes,” Martino said of the team’s goal to win the entire tournament. “The important thing is characteristics and the form the team will have in matches where when it’s over you go or you stay. We’re going to see it from the quarterfinals. Nothing that happened today has to do with what can happen in the future in any way.”Well, in some ways it does. Mexico has built up toward the knockout stage with good results. It has continued to add to its winning streak. It has seen things it needs to correct and has nearly a week to correct those things.Martino is right that none of that will matter if Mexico doesn’t lift the trophy. The 2011 team is remembered for its pressure-packed win in the final at the Rose Bowl, not anything that happened while it was jockeying for knockout round positioning. But it’s worth taking a step back from the nail-biting finish against a Martinique team Mexico should’ve had an easier time against to recognize that as a whole the grop stage was what Mexico needed. Now it needs to move on to the next stage and prove it’s the team to beat in the region.last_img read more

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Virat Kohli would have smashed me out of the park too: Shane Warne

first_imgVirat Kohli would have smashed me out of the park too: Shane WarneShane Warne spoke exclusively to India Today about a range of issues. Warne, who has 708 Test and 293 ODI wickets, said he felt Virat Kohli would have smashed him out of the park tooadvertisement Rasesh Mandani MumbaiFebruary 13, 2019UPDATED: February 13, 2019 19:55 IST Shane Warne feels Virat Kohli would have smashed him out of the park (AP Photo)Shane Warne is the greatest leg-spinner to have ever played the game. The Australian legend is now a brand ambassador for Rajasthan Royals but his opinions on the game are held in high esteem. While he picked India and hosts England as favourites to win the 2019 Cricket World Cup, Warne said he would not be surprised if Australia pose a stiffer challenge than many might think.Warne mesmerised batsmen with his spin and guile for years. His battles with Sachin Tendulkar are now part of cricketing folklore – the Aussie spin wizard had once said he had nightmares of Tendulkar stepping down the pitch to hit him for sixes. Now, happily retired, Warne feels even Virat Kohli would have smashed him out of the park.Virat Kohli has the second most ODI hundreds after Tendulkar and he is widely believed to break most of Tendulkar’s batting records in the time to come.Speaking exclusively to India Today, Shane Warne heaped praise on Virat Kohli, talked about his journey with Rajasthan Royals and MS Dhoni and Rishabh Pant. Excerpts:INDIAN PREMIER LEAGUE 2019Q. It’s been quite a journey for you Shane with the Rajasthan Royals. From winning the trophy as captain in the first year to various other cricketing roles to now promoting the franchise..A. Yeah, my role with the Royals has evolved. The first year of the IPL, we managed to win which is pretty amazing. We were the underdogs. Everyone was saying Mumbai Indians is going to win and in their critiques, one thing was consistent that the worst team is Rajasthan Royals and they will finish at the bottom. So to go from captain-coach for four years and create our own history, we have now gone on for ten years with two years out. So my role has gone on from consultant and mentoring the players to consulting from a distance with the owners and this year I am the brand ambassador.advertisementBecause if you look at Rajasthan Royals, we are one of the more popular franchises in India. If you look at who is everyone’s second favourite team, it’s Royals. Everyone has a soft spot for us from that first year. A soft spot because we always unearth young talent, we always give young talent a go. Then if you look at the global scale, everyone looks at what the Royals are doing. So now we are looking at how we can capitalise on that, interact with the fans globally and push for what Rajasthan Royals stands for, which is integrity, honesty, win from any position, never give up. And that’s got a correlation with business and life. We are going to explore the states, UK, Asia, Australia, Europe on what we can do with business and cricket. Also what we are pushing at the moment is our new colour, which is pink. One because we think it is pretty cool and can’t think of any other sporting team that wears pink. Last year when we were supporting various cancer organisations, the fort turned pink, the whole of Jaipur turned pink, the Rambaug Palace turned pink and we are from the pink city. It’s a bit bold colour and that’s what we are.Q. How do you see the Rajasthan Royals doing on the field this year?A. The boys have a put together an amazing squad. It being a World Cup year, we are probably going to lose Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Steve Smith and Jofra Archer maybe. But we think they will play 10-11 games and can still have an impact in the tournament. So the squad that Rajasthan Royals have, I think we will be one of the favourites.Mumbai and Chennai will always be favourites. But for us anything less than the playoffs will be a disappointing year. When you think about it, we won it in the first year and we haven’t won it for the next ten years. I think it could be the Royals’ year this time.WORLD CUP Q. Talking about the World Cup, you have said that India will be one of the fancied sides. Who else?A. India and England are the two favourites. If you look on recent form and who has played really well and who has set the benchmark, it would be these two standout teams. So I think they go in as favourites, having Chahal and Kuldeep who are really good. And that’s what you need; spinners in the middle overs who can take wickets.advertisementBut I think when you look at Australia and their record in ICC trophies, we have won the most. Australia always performs well in big tournaments on the big stage. That’s a proven fact. With Warner and Smith coming back they will have a point to prove. They will be determined and hungry to go well. I think David Warner could possibly be the player of the tournament. I really believe he could do well. And if you add those two guys with Finch, D’arcy Short, Stoinis, Maxwell, Starc, Cummins and then you look at the side, you would think, actually they are a pretty good team. They have got the backbone and the spine and heart for big tournaments. They are proven champions. They are current World Cup holders. I think Australia will do really well in this World Cup and could win it as well. So England, India and Australia are my three sides, one of them will win.WRIST SPINQ. You expect this trend of wrist spinners having their noses in front extending to Test cricket too? Ravi Shastri recently said so, adding that Kuldeep Yadav will be India’s frontline spinner in overseas conditionsA. Look, I am biased. I want spinners to play all the time. Play as many spinners whether it’s off spin, leg spin. But the more leg spinners, the better for me. I think it’s a proven fact that leg spinners can help win you games in all conditions, home or away. So I hope India stick with spinners and Kuldeep gets a spot in any condition because he is a class act.VIRAT KOHLIQ. You are never short of words in praise of Virat Kohli. Do you see a bit of yourself in him, in the way he approaches his cricket?A. I am a huge fan of Virat. What he brings to the world game is passion. He’s not someone who just toes the line and says what he is meant to say, he says what he feels. He is passionate, he is emotional. And I love that, his cricket, what he brings to the table. I love that he is a terrific leader of men. He is an absolute superstar of the world game. And he loves Test cricket so I really respect that as an old-time player who loves Test cricket. I love that he is really pushing it and making it the best form of the game. That’s not to say T20 is not fun, it’s awesome, ODI cricket is awesome. But Test cricket with the history and tradition of the game, I love that he loves it too. I am a huge fan of Virat Kohli.Q. Picture this! Shane Warne in his prime with Kookaburra ball in hand is running into bowl to Virat Kohli. He would cope all right, you think?A. Well I bowled to Virat a few times and I did get him out. But he must have been only 15 or something when he started.advertisementEvery time you bowl to the best you want to test yourself against the best. I am sure Virat would have smashed me around the park, just about every time I played but maybe, I would have got him out once or twice.Q. Virat as a captain; he leads from the front but you think he can get better tactically?A. Yeah. I saw one report, I wasn’t having a go at Virat about tactics. I think he is the best leader of men but he can get better tactically. I think he is a very good tactical captain but every captain can get tactically better. And the more you do, the better you get.You are never the best captain when you start. It takes a few years as a captain to understand how to get the best out of players. Tactically, when to be aggressive, what fields to set, when to declare, situations of games, that evolves and you get better. The more he does it the better he will get. So I think at the moment you have Tim Paine, Kane Williamson who are good tactical captains but they can get better too. And I think Virat in time will become a terrific tactical captain too.MS DHONI AND RISHABH PANTQ. The MS Dhoni question, Shane. He would have gained confidence from his Player of the Series winning show against Australia. But there are some things that he used to do like scoring 10 an over, setting up a total or while chasing that he does not. Should India reassess their expectations from him in the World Cup?A. If you are going to win World Cups and I have been in a few and won a few, you need your best and most experienced players to perform. If they perform, you will win the World Cup. So India need MS Dhoni to perform at his best in the World Cup. India needs him in the team.Dhoni has always done what is best for the team, whether it is bat at no 4, 5 or 6. Whatever the state of the game, the match situation, he will adapt. If you need 10 runs an over, he will adapt. He will do it, it’s a proven fact. He doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. They need him in the team because he will deliver because he is class.There has been talk if Rishabh Pant can play in the side. I think Dhoni and Pant both can play. I can’t see why Rishabh Pant can’t play as a batsman. He is outstanding. Maybe even open the batting with Rohit Sharma. I know Shikhar Dhawan does a great job but Rishabh Pant opening the batting with Rohit Sharma could be pretty cool too for India. Go with some of these X-factor type things and tactical battles where you surprise the opposition.It could be worth throwing Rishabh Pant at the top of the order for a couple of games and see how he goes. Maybe against Australia now (upcoming series) and experiment and see how he goes for the World Cup. Dhawan may have a role to play somewhere else. But I am really looking forward to seeing what India have because they have a lot of players who can do a lot of roles.Also Read | Vijay Shankar making a strong case for 2019 World Cup berth: L BalajiAlso Read | Virat Kohli head and shoulders above the rest in world cricket today: Kumar SangakkaraAlso Read | Pant, Rohit as openers for India in World Cup? Shane Warne has an interesting takeFor sports news, updates, live scores and cricket fixtures, log on to indiatoday.in/sports. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for Sports news, scores and updates.Get real-time alerts and all the news on your phone with the all-new India Today app. Download from Post your comment Do You Like This Story? Awesome! Now share the story Too bad. Tell us what you didn’t like in the comments Tags :Follow Virat KohliFollow Shane WarneFollow Rajasthan RoyalsFollow IPLFollow MS DhoniFollow Rishabh PantFollow Kohli Warnelast_img read more