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The Star Online: Sports

Sri Lanka cricket captain says pressure is all on India

Posted: 01 Apr 2011 02:58 AM PDT

MUMBAI, India (AP) - Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara deflected all the pressure onto India a day before the World Cup final by saying the host team will carry the "weight of expectation."

India hasn't won the World Cup since 1983, and hopes are high in the country of 1.2 billion that Mahendra Singh Dhoni's squad can end that wait on home soil and at Sachin Tendulkar's home ground.

Sangakkara's team has played all but one of its matches so far in Sri Lanka, but the captain said Friday that playing in India would ease the pressure on his players.

"It cuts both ways I think," Sangakkara said. "Playing in front of your home crowd adds to the excitement, the passion and the pride that you feel. But the weight of expectation, when you feel that crowd looking at you to do everything right, is also tough."

The Wankhede Stadium will be full to capacity with more than 33,000 spectators, the vast majority of whom will be cheering for India and its star player Tendulkar, who is seeking a first World Cup win in six attempts.

Even ICC chief executive Horoon Lorgat said last week that it would be a "fairytale ending" if Tendulkar posted his 100th international hundred in the final at his home ground.

Sangakkara rejected the suggestion that Sri Lanka would be underdogs on Saturday, but said the pressure was on India to fulfil its status as tournament favorite.

"Everyone in the world expects (India) to turn up tomorrow and win this game," he said. "We have to understand the fact that India for the last year or two years have been tagged as the favorites by almost everyone to win the World Cup.

"I'm sure they'll be looking at themselves as favorites too."

Sri Lanka's final game at home ended with emotional scenes as Muttiah Muralitharan was carried around the ground by his teammates after playing his final international game in the country.

The profilic offspinner had taken a wicket with his final delivery.

But Sangakkara said his players won't be motivated by the prospect of spoiling Tendulkar's party on Saturday.

"We're not here to spoil anything," he said. "Everyone understands the importance of scoring runs in a final, whether it be Sachin or anyone else. One hundred hundreds, it's the first time a player is going to get there. All of that adds to the expectations for a World Cup final.

"Our job is to ensure that the India team doesn't score too many runs."

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America's Cup World Series to open in Portugal

Posted: 01 Apr 2011 02:56 AM PDT

SAN DIEGO (AP) - The new America's Cup World Series will begin later this year with regattas in Portugal, England and San Diego.

They are the first regattas in the buildup to the 2013 America's Cup on San Francisco Bay.

Organizers also announced early Friday that 15 teams from 12 countries have entered the 34th America's Cup, including defending champion Oracle Racing of San Francisco.

The entry period closed on Thursday. Of the 14 challengers that have entered, 12 have been validated while the remaining two teams will be checked against the qualifying requirements.

Seven of the teams have publicly announced their challenge.

"It is time to go racing," regatta director Iain Murray said in a statement.

The ACWS circuit this year will be contested in 45-foot (14-meter), wing-sailed catamarans. A 72-foot (22-meter) version of the fast cat will come online next year.

The first regatta will be from Aug. 6-14 in Cascais, Portugal, followed by one in Plymouth, England, from Sept. 10-18.

The San Diego regatta will be between mid-October and early December.

San Diego hosted three America's Cups from 1988-95.

"The race course on San Diego Bay will amaze fans from around the world when they see the power and speed of the new wing-powered AC45 multihull racing yachts," said Troy Sears, an official with Sailing Events Association San Diego.

The choice of Plymouth was interesting, considering that a British syndicate announced in October that it wouldn't challenge for the America's Cup because the format and timetable weren't viable.

The race that gave birth to the America's Cup was held in England in 1851.

The schooner America beat a fleet of British ships around the Isle of Wight to claim what has become the oldest trophy in international sports.

America's Cup official Richard Worth said the initial ports chosen for the ACWS allow spectators to watch the racing from shore.

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