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Dhoni-led India to enter ICC World T20 World Cup as number-one ranked T20I side

dhonireadyforsemisNew Delhi: Mahendra Singh Dhoni-India have strengthened its reputation as a strong title contender for the ICC World Twenty20 India 2016 after it was confirmed on Sunday that it will enter the home tournament as the number-one ranked side in the world.

The sixth edition of the tournament, to be held in India for the first time, will start on Tuesday when 13th-ranked Zimbabwe takes on 14th-ranked Hong Kong in Nagpur, which will be followed by the match between ninth-ranked Afghanistan and 11th-ranked Scotland. The second round will kick off on 15 March, also in Nagpur, when India goes head to head with New Zealand. The final will be played at Eden Gardens on 3 April.

The 10-team women’s competition will also be played alongside the men’s second round with the semi-finals and final to take place before the men’s knock-out matches at the same venues.

India’s number-one ranking was sealed late Sunday evening after Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side won the Asia Cup in Mirpur, hours after Australia had chased down South Africa’s 204 to level the three-match series at one-all. Irrespective of which side now wins the series in Cape Town on Wednesday, it will not be enough to dislodge India from the top pedestal.

India, which won the inaugural event in South Africa and finished runner-up in Bangladesh two years ago, is on 127 points, nine points clear of 2012 winner West Indies and South Africa, who are on equal points (118). New Zealand is fourth on 116, followed by 2010 winner England in fifth, 2010 losing finalist Australia in sixth, 2009 champion Pakistan in seventh and defending champion Sri Lanka in eighth.

These eight sides qualified directlyfor the second round after finishing inside the top eight of the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Rankings as on 30 April 2015. Tenth-ranked Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have been joined in the first round by Afghanistan, Hong Kong, 15th-ranked Ireland, 12th-ranked Netherlands, 11th-ranked Scotland and 16th-ranked Oman, who qualified for the tournament proper after claiming the top six positions in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2015 in Ireland and Scotland.

Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands and debutant Oman are in Group A, while Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Scotland and Zimbabwe are in Group B. If rankings have anything to do with qualification, then Bangladesh and Afghanistan should progress from Group A and B respectively. But it would not be wise to under-estimate the strength, talent, experience and ability of Ireland and Netherlands as well as Zimbabwe and Scotland. This means plenty of action and tight finishes are in store in the first-round matches.

Since the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014, India has played 16 matches and has won 11, including 10 out of 11 T20Is this year. And this is reflected in the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Player Rankings which boasts a number of its players enjoying high rankings.

Rank   Team              Points

1.      India                127

2.      West Indies     118

3.      South Africa   118

4.      New Zealand  116

5.      England           112

6.      Australia          111

7.      Pakistan           110

8.      Sri Lanka         109

9.      Afghanistan    77

10.  Bangladesh     74

11.  Scotland          69

12.  Netherlands     59

13.  Zimbabwe       54

14.  Hong Kong     49

15.  Ireland             48

16.  UAE                38

17.  Oman              32


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