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05 June 2023

Dhoni plays down India World T20 favourites tag

India's captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni plays a shot during the second one day international (ODI) cricket match between India and South Africa at The Holkar Cricket Stadium at Indore on October 14, 2015. AFP


Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni sought to downplay expectations Tuesday about his side's prospects at the World Twenty20 despite starting as roaring favourites to win the title on home turf.

Dhoni's men have been on a roll since the start of the year, winning 10 out of 11 Twenty20 internationals, with the latest being a comprehensive title-winning triumph at the weekend over Bangladesh in the Asia Cup.

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Their recent form even led former opener Virender Sehwag to proclaim that the world's number one team had a "99 per cent" chance of winning the trophy for a second time.

India won the inaugural edition in 2007 and are gunning to become the tournament's only two-time winners.

Dhoni however refused to be pulled down by the weight of expectations, focusing instead on taking one game at a time.

"When it comes to expectations, I don't think it is any lesser than what it was in the 2011 World Cup," Dhoni, 34, said, referring to India's winning campaign at home that year in the 50-over format.

"We don't think too much about the expectations, the reason being it can put you under pressure," he said at a press conference in Kolkata.

"We are looking to make a slow and steady progress, rather than think too far ahead," said the wicket-keeping batsman, who is widely expected to retire at the end of the tournament.

India, hosting the format's world cup for the first time, boast a string of players in form, starting with captain-in-waiting Virat Kohli.

Kohli, who already captains India in Tests, has nine fifties in his last 14 Twenty20 innings, and averages over 50 in the format.

Openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have also hit a purple patch while the bowlers have impressed too, including the wily off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.

With the players looking well-settled, Dhoni said he saw no reason to tinker with team strategy.

"We are running on the sixth gear (although) I know the technology has gone into the eighth gear," he quipped.

"We have to keep our intensity up and focus should be there right from the very first ball.

"I think everything is set. I don't think there are any more gears left for us to operate."

India start their campaign against New Zealand next Tuesday followed by a much-awaited clash with archrivals Pakistan in the northern hill town of Dharamsala on March 19.

The final will be played on April 3 at Kolkata's Eden Gardens.