100-day countdown to World T20 begins

Dubai, Dec 6 : The International Cricket Council (ICC), together with the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), celebrated the 100-day countdown to the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014 in the three host cities.

The countdown clock was unveiled on Thursday evening amid much fanfare, confetti and fireworks at South Plaza Gate, National Parliament House, Dhaka; Chittagong's Circuit House Circle, M.A. Aziz Stadium and Sylhet's Keane Bridge (Surma River).

Concerts at the three venues wowed the audiences, and present at the sites were Bangladesh Cricket Board President Nazmul Hassan (in Dhaka), and BCB Directors AZM Nasir and Shafiul Alam Chowdhury (in Chittagong and Sylhet, respectively). Also attending the celebrations at different venues were Bangladesh men's team members Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Nasir Hossain, Sohag Gazi, Anamul Haque and women's team captain Salma Khatun and her teammates Ayesha Rahman and Jahanara Ahmed.

The men's event will include ICC's 10 Full Members and, for the first time, six ICC Associate members (Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates), who qualified through the recently concluded ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier UAE 2013.

The first round matches will start on 16 March with the opener between Bangladesh and Afghanistan while India and Pakistan will feature in the first match of the Super 10 stage on 21 March. The semi-finals will be played on 3 and 4 April and the final will be staged on 6 April.

The women's event will feature 10 teams and Australia will attempt to complete a hat-trick of titles. The first round matches to take place in Sylhet from 23 March to 2 April. The top two sides from each group will progress to the semi-finals. As in the past, the women's semi-finals and final will be held on the same day as the men's semi-finals and final, and at the same venue.

Speaking about the event, MS Dhoni of India, Mohammad Hafeez of Pakistan, Darren Sammy of the West Indies and Bangladesh's Mushfiqur Rahim said they could barely wait for the start of the event.

Mushfiqur said: "The ICC World Twenty20 is knocking on our doorsteps and this is an amazing feeling. I believe I can truly relate to the passion and excitement of the whole of Bangladesh as we wait in eager anticipation of what I am sure will be a magnificent event.

"Bangladesh's love for the game of cricket is legendary. The tickets for the ICC WT20 BD 2014 getting sold out within days gives you a perfect example of what to expect a hundred days from now.

"I am very aware of what the home fans are hoping to see from us and the team has also raised the bar in regards to what it intends to achieve. Our eyes are firmly fixed on 16 March, when we start our campaign against Afghanistan at Mirpur. That fixture and every other match will be a challenge as Twenty20 is a great leveler, but we will give it our best shot to ensure performances befitting of a proud host nation", said the skipper of Bangladesh."

"The four previous editions of the tournament have thrown up four different winners, adding to the aura of one of the most glamorous and widely followed events in international sport. And with a level playing field only adding more spice to what is already an unpredictable format, the teams know it will be a hard run in the marquee event."

The inaugural ICC World Twenty20 was staged in South Africa and under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India had earned the top honours.

Looking ahead to next year's event, Dhoni said: "It's personally quite exciting for me as a captain, as I look forward to leading India's quest to reclaim the ICC World Twenty20 title.

"If India manages to snare this coveted trophy, it will complete a unique feat as it already holds the ICC Cricket World Cup and ICC Champions Trophy. We are familiar with the conditions in Bangladesh and I'm sure they will suit our style of play.

"So with just 100 days to go to the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014, we can barely wait for the start of the event, and look forward to producing our best performances against some of the best sides in the world."

Pakistan's Mohammad Hafeez, who has played in all the ICC World Twenty20s except the one in 2009 when the green shirts won the title, was equally excited when he said: "The ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014, like any other ICC event, will be a thrilling and action-packed tournament in which all the sides will aim for nothing less than the coveted trophy.

"We have a proud record in the ICC World Twenty20, having played in two finals, winning one in 2009, and two semi-finals, and we will try our best to do one better than the last time and equal the achievement of 2009 that gave the country so much happiness and delight."

Pakistan and India will lock horns in their tournament openers against each other on 21 March in Dhaka and Hafeez hoped his boys will be on target from the very first ball. "Our group is an interesting one, and includes defending champion the West Indies, former winner India, Australia as well as the side that tops Group A from the first round.

"And when the tournament opener is against India, then you've got to be on top of your game from the very first ball.

"Our recent performances have given us a lot of confidence and belief, and I'm optimistic that we'll be able to perform to the best our ability - of course, with the support and blessings of our followers worldwide."

Hafeez hoped the people of Bangladesh will enjoy this spectacle when he said: "As regards to the home crowd, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the cricket-passionate people of Bangladesh to throng the stadia and see live in action the world's best teams and players in the shortest and probably most attractive format, in quest of one of the most sought prizes in cricket."

West Indies will defend the title it won in Sri Lanka and captain Darren Sammy said: "At the last ICC World Twenty20, our slogan was 'One Team, One Goal', and we achieved our mission to win the tournament. We will have the same desire for next year's tournament, as we seek to become the first team to win back-to-back ICC World Twenty20 titles.

"As the title-holders, we expect that all of the other teams will be coming hard at us, but no extra incentive or motivation is required when we wear the West Indies uniform, and they can expect to get as good they give.

"With conditions in Bangladesh likely to be similar to Sri Lanka last year, we are all fired up and looking for an encore.

"We will again have a well-balanced and talented squad, looking to prove themselves and justify our high pre-tournament billing, and we promise to entertain cricket fans all over the world, not just with the quality of our play, but also our unique style and flair, just as we did in Sri Lanka."

"The previous edition of the tournament in the Emerald Isle provided a slew of hard-fought affairs. And with an exciting new format that sees a new system of qualification for the Super 10 stage after the group phase, this one promises much the same."

--IBNS (Posted on 06-12-2013)

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