Dhaka, Apr 28 (UNB) - Bangladesh stalwart Mushfiqur Rahim on Sunday said he believes the upcoming World Cup in England is the biggest opportunity for him to prove his worth in a greater stage. The batsman also said Bangladesh have the chance to go all the way in the tournament as they have some experienced players who played three World Cups previously.
Mushfiqur played a World Cup for the first time back in 2007 in West Indies. Since then, he never looked back, and he established himself as one of the best batsmen that Bangladesh have ever produced.
“Everyone wants to do imperiously well in a big event. I think I’m no exception. But the condition of the upcoming World Cup will be a big challenge for us. At the same time, we have to perform in front of a huge crowd. I have played three World Cups and scored runs for my country. So, it’s going to be my fourth World Cup. I’ll try to do something remarkable,” he told reporters at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium.
The right-handed wicketkeeper-batsman represented the Tigers in the World Cup in 2007, 2011 and 2015. He played 21 matches in the World Cup and scored 510 runs at an average of 31.87. He struck a fifty in his first appearance in the World Cup with the bat against India, in which, Bangladesh came up victorious in Port of Spain. The win remained as Bangladesh’s most glorious one in World Cups.
“I have a personal goal in the forthcoming World Cup. I’ll be playing in the event to surpass all the previous records of mine. I think we have the chance and the ability as well. As a batsman, I’ll try to help the team according to my experience,” Mushfiqur further told reporters.
Unlike the other editions of the World Cup, Bangladesh will get the chance to play against each contesting team this time. Mushfiqur thinks this format will help the Tigers attack with more confidence. He also believes the format of the World Cup will create a fair chance for all of the participating teams.
“It’s a tough format but every team will get an equal chance to prove their prowess through it. So, I can say the format is more comfortable for Bangladesh. At the same time, Bangladesh are not like they were before. Bangladesh are now a big team who can be unbeatable if they play according to their abilities. I welcome the format we’ll have in the World Cup. We could qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup performing well in the primary stage,” he said.
“Having most experienced players in the team, this is the strongest World Cup team that Bangladesh have ever had. We lost many finals in the recent past. Maybe, a big achievement is waiting for us in the future,” Mushfiqur also said.
Before heading to the World Cup, Bangladesh will play a tri-nation series in Ireland involving the hosts and West Indies. Bangladesh former captain told the media the tri-series will be very important for the Tigers to prepare themselves properly ahead of the main assault in the World Cup.
Dhaka, Apr 28 (UNB) — Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) included all-rounder Farhad Reza and pacer Taskin Ahmed in the Tigers’ squad for the Ireland tri-series slated to start next month.
The board confirmed the move in a press release on Sunday.
Bangladesh and West Indies will join hosts Ireland in the series slated to be played between May 5 and 17.
Taskin and Farhad’s inclusion in the squad is a precautionary step, said BCB’s Cricket Operation Committee Chairman Akram Khan.
“We selected 17 players for the tri-series. But now, we’re including Farhad and Taskin following a request from head coach Steve Rhodes. I hope they’ll prove their worth in Ireland,” Akram said.
Some of Bangladesh’s players are not at their best due to injuries. “They’ve already recovered but need more time to get back to their best. So, the head coach requested the board to add more names,” he told the media.
Farhad Reza, the 32-year-old all-rounder, last played for the Tigers in 2014. His last appearance was in a T20 International while he played an ODI back in 2011 against Pakistan in Chattogram.
But he had been performing well in domestic cricket.
In the just-concluded Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League, he took 38 wickets in 16 matches. He also recorded a five-wicket haul. Farhad also scored 207 runs with a strike rate of 152.2.
He was also in form during the last edition of Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) where he took 17 wickets in 14 matches for Rangpur Riders.
On the other hand, Taskin suffered an ankle injury during the last BPL. He took 22 wickets in 12 matches which had paved his way to the national side for New Zealand tour. But he had to sit out due to injury.
Since then, Taskin was under BCB rehabilitation programme and recovered well. The right-arm pacer played three matches for Legends of Rupganj in the Super League stage of Dhaka League and scalped six wickets.
He was earlier overlooked by BCB during the selection of the World Cup squad.
“Taskin is doing well in net sessions as our bowling coach Courtney Walsh told us. So, we’ve decided to give him another chance. If he performs well in Ireland, he might get more chances in the national side,” Akram said.
Spain, Apr 28 (AP/UNB) — For the second week in a row, Rafael Nadal has fallen in the semifinals of a clay-court tournament he has dominated for more than a decade.
Dominic Thiem defeated Nadal 6-4, 6-4 in the Barcelona Open on Saturday, becoming the first player other than Novak Djokovic to defeat the Spaniard on clay four times.
The loss for Nadal came one week after he was beaten by Fabio Fognini in Monte Carlo.
Nadal was seeking to add to his 11 titles at both events.
Now, the 17-time Grand Slam champion will be looking to recover his normally unstoppable form on clay before next month's French Open, which he has also won 11 times.
While Nadal called his loss at Monte Carlo "one of his worst matches on clay," he said Saturday's loss to Thiem was one he could learn from.
"There are losses that help you, and this was one of them," said Nadal, who had been aiming for a fourth consecutive title in Barcelona.
"Considering the way I played, it has been quite a while since I felt this good on clay," he said. "Of my last eight matches this is the first one where I have left that I am playing at the level I need to be at, to be able to play relaxed and with the necessary energy.
"Thiem played a great match and I was in it. I was competitive, and I think that from here on I will be even better."
Thiem will try to win his second title of the year on Sunday in a final against Daniil Medvedev, who upset fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
The fifth-ranked Thiem won his first title of the season by defeating Roger Federer in the Indian Wells final in March. This will be his first final on clay since last year's French Open, where he lost to Nadal.
Thiem lost the Barcelona final to Nadal two years ago, but the Austrian has beaten Nadal on clay in each of the last three seasons.
Only two other players have beaten Nadal on clay three times — Fognini and Gaston Gaudio.
The second-ranked Nadal had never lost in the semifinals or finals in Barcelona. He had won 18 straight here going back to a third-round defeat to Fognini in 2015.
Thiem has yet to lose a set this week, and he was in control early on against Nadal, putting pressure on the Spaniard's serve from the start. He broke Nadal in the fifth game of the first set and had four break opportunities immediately after that before Nadal recovered to hold.
The one break ended up being enough for Thiem in the first set, and he moved ahead of the Spaniard again at 2-2 in the second set. He was down 0-40 while serving for the match, but came back to close out the victory at the Rafa Nadal main court.
"I'm always super proud if I beat him because he's the best player ever on this surface," Thiem said. "We always had great matches in the past, and also today's was very good. I was more lucky today."
Nishikori, the winner in Barcelona in 2014 and 2015, was broken twice in the final set against Medvedev, including in the final game of the match.
It was a tour-best 25th win this year for the 14th-ranked Medvedev, who was coming off a semifinal appearance in Monte Carlo. It will be his first-ever clay court final.
"I'm really happy that I managed to hold my nerves, to try to come back, and I managed to come back," Medvedev said. "I'm just happy to be in the final."
Spain, Apr 28 (AP/UNB) — Lionel Messi conjured the perfect finish to a dominant title march by Barcelona on Saturday, when he came off the bench and scored the goal that clinched the Spanish league crown.
After resting until halftime, Messi went on and finally put a shot past Levante goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez in the 62nd minute to start the celebrations at the Camp Nou. Barcelona won 1-0 with Messi's league-leading 34th goal, his 46th in all competitions this season.
After hugging and kissing his children who came on the pitch with the other players' families, Messi received the league trophy from Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales and pumped it in the air.
Barcelona won its second straight league title since Ernesto Valverde took over at the start of last season. The title was the club's eighth in 11 seasons. Overall, Barcelona has 26 league titles, second only to Real Madrid's 33.
"(Messi) scores goals against everyone and he has given us the title," Valverde said about his star. "To win the title by a good margin, given how difficult it is, and to have done it back-to-back, we are just happy to give our fans something to be happy about. It is a source of pride for us."
Barcelona's win put it nine points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid with three rounds to play. Barcelona holds the tiebreaker with Atletico on head-to-head goals.
Atletico beat Valladolid 1-0 earlier, forcing Barcelona to need a victory to wrap up the title this weekend before it turns its attention to its upcoming European clash with Liverpool.
With the league recaptured, Barcelona can focus on completing a rare treble. In the Champions League, it hosts Liverpool on Wednesday in the semifinals, and in the Copa del Rey, it faces Valencia in the final on May 25.
"This club was important before, but this generation of players has made it one-of-a-kind, for the titles we have won and the way we have won them," Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. "And we want to keep this going. We are fortunate enough to be in two more competitions and we hope that we can celebrate more this season."
Messi started his second match in a row on Barcelona's bench, sitting for the first 45 minutes to get some extra rest for Liverpool.
The closest Barcelona came to scoring against the relegation-threatened Levante without Messi was Philippe Coutinho's free kick that hit the crossbar.
Messi replaced Coutinho at halftime and was there to finish off a long team buildup that culminated when Arturo Vidal knocked a ball to Messi, who shifted the ball to his left foot to open an angle around a defender and poke a shot past Fernandez.
Jose Morales had a chance to level for Levante after Ivan Rakitic failed to control a high ball, only to fire high. Enis Bardhi also hit the upright late as Levante kept the result in suspense until the final whistle.
But the night ended with Messi and his teammates locking arms and bouncing in a circle at midfield while more than 90,000 fans cheered around them.
"We had a little of the luck of the champion when the ball hit the post and didn't go in," Barcelona's Luis Suarez said. "Today we showed that against a rival that is fighting to stay in the top flight that we had to play hard until the end, so we have to give a lot of merit to having won another league title."
For second place
Atletico's win kept it on pace to at least finish above crosstown rival Real Madrid, which it leads by nine points.
An own-goal by Valladolid defender Joaquin Fernandez in the 66th gave Atletico its sixth win in seven matches. The only setback for Diego Simeone's team was a 2-0 loss at Barcelona, a result that virtually ended its title hopes.
Athletic Bilbao was held by Alaves to 1-1, a result that didn't help either club in the fight for European spots.
Celta Vigo took a point from a 0-0 draw at Leganes as it tries to avoid the drop.
Spain, Apr 28 (AP/UNB) — Without Cristiano Ronaldo around to at least keep it interesting, a spectacular Lionel Messi had no rival to stop him from helping Barcelona successfully defend its Spanish league title.
Barcelona clinched the crown with three rounds left on Saturday, after Messi scored to beat Levante 1-0 at Camp Nou.
But this was coming for a long time. Barcelona lost only two games in 35 rounds, and opened up a significant lead early in the season.
It brushed off the only timid attempt to give it a fight, by Atletico Madrid, to secure an eighth title in 11 seasons.
Overall, Barcelona has 26 Liga trophies, second only to Real Madrid with 33.
Now Barcelona can put all of its focus on completing a rare treble of titles. It will face Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals from Wednesday, and plays Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on May 25.
How did Barcelona do it with such apparent ease?
Here are a few reasons:
When Messi couldn't possibly get any better, he did just that and guided Barcelona to its 10th league title of the 15 he's disputed.
Messi will be in the running to win a record sixth Ballon d'Or for his season, after scoring 46 goals in all competitions so far and setting up a bunch more for his teammates.
The Liga's all-time leading scorer was particularly deadly from set-pieces. Six of his 34 league goals came from direct free kicks. At one point, Messi scored from a free kick in three straight matches in late March and early April.
At 31, he is still faster with the ball than most players are without it. His vision of the pitch is unmatched. His left boot is pure danger for goalkeepers whenever he gets a sliver of space near the area.
And to top it off, Messi took over as Barcelona's vocal leader after the exit of Andres Iniesta last summer.
Long gone was the floppy hair, tight-lipped Messi from his early days, who shied away from the camera and the microphone. Now, it is Messi who speaks for his teammates on the field with referees, and — on occasion— to the media following the match.
His majesty was exemplified in a game in Seville on March 17.
When Messi scored his third goal with a nonchalant-looking lob that floated over the goalie and grazed the bar before going home, the Real Betis fans stood up, applauded, and chanted "Messi! Messi! Messi!" in tribute to his unforgettable performance.
"Messi is obviously at the heart of all this," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "This run of titles has his name all on it, above all the rest. It is something that everyone recognizes. He defines our style of play. His competitiveness is contagious and he obliges us all to rise to his level."
Long defined by its excellent midfielders, Barcelona's defenders stepped up as its most complete unit.
Gerard Pique led a back four with his best season to date. Pique, 32, redoubled his dedication to the club after retiring from international football last summer. The result was a constantly flawless series of performances.
Clement Lenglet surpassed expectations as Pique's partner in the center of the defense. After arriving from Sevilla, he was supposed to be Samuel Umtiti's backup. But his skill at making timely tackles won him a starter's job after Umtiti went down with injury.
Jordi Alba was one of Messi's favorite players to look for in his speedy incursions down the left flank, while Sergi Roberto and Nelson Semedo gave coach Ernesto Valverde two fast and reliable options at right back.
Luis Suarez again was a perfect second scoring option to Messi, chipping in with 21.
Valverde masterfully mixed his other weapons to help his team do damage, alternating between the speed of Ousmane Dembele at winger, the ball control of Arthur, and the muscle and hustle of Arturo Vidal as each moment dictated.
Ivan Rakitic also excelled as Valverde's sturdy two-way player. The Croat provided balance in attack and helped Sergio Busquets sweep the center of the pitch.
The strength of Barcelona's squad was never more evident than on Oct. 28, when Suarez scored a hat trick to fuel a 5-1 rout of Madrid while Messi was out with an injured arm.
It wasn't hard to predict that if Madrid had rarely stopped Barcelona from winning the title in recent years that it would have an even greater difficulty once Ronaldo left for Juventus.
But Madrid was a disaster from the second month of the season. It was out of the title chase before the winter break and fired coaches Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari before Zinedine Zidane returned to a team with just pride to play for.
Atletico Madrid was the only team worthy of being called a candidate for the title. But a 2-0 win by Barcelona over Atletico thanks to goals by Messi and Suarez ended the slim chances for Diego Simeone's side with seven rounds left.