Guwahati, Sep 10 (PTI) Northeast United FC owner John Abraham says the opening ceremony of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2016 will inspire the youth from the region and give recognition to the people here. “I cannot even begin to tell you how big it is for us. It is fantastic! Finally, we can give the Northeast an occasion to be proud off and to feel good about being the centre of attraction for the Indian Super League. We are a football hub and it was important for the people of the region to feel recognised. We are privileged and honoured,” the Bollywood actor said. For the first time, the ISL opening ceremony will be held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium and nobody is more excited than John, who thanked Nita Ambani, chairperson of Football Sports Development Ltd (FSDL), for giving the franchise an opportunity to host the opening ceremony. “I want to especially thank Mrs Nita Ambani for awarding Guwahati the honours of hosting this mega event. We have been working towards this for quite some time now and I am ecstatic that we will finally be hosting the opening ceremony at one of the homes of Indian football,” he said. In the past, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Goa have hosted either the opening ceremony or the final. “When young kids will watch this mega event, they will hopefully be inspired by the magnitude of it all and tell themselves I want to perform on a stage like this one day. Such events always give a fillip to the community and aspire athletes. I can assure you that the entire region will be gearing up for the opening ceremony,” said John. PTI AH CM CMadvertisement
Ahead of the three-match Test series against India, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson on Tuesday hailed host skipper Virat Kohli’s ability to dominate in all the three formats of the game as “special”.Addressing reporters ahead of the Black Caps’ three-day practice game against Mumbai, starting on Friday at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground here, Williamson named Kohli as one of the players, whom the Kiwis will look out for during the Test series.”Virat (Kohli) is a great player. The ability to dominate in all three formats like he does is something very special and certainly something that I admire. I love watching him play,” Williamson said.”There are a lot of good players in the Indian team whom we will have to look out for. Virat is one of those players, against whom we have to be at our very best.”The 26-year-old right-hander, who is often counted in the same bracket as Kohli along with Australia skipper Steve Smith and England batsman Joe Root, said each player has his own style and game plan which sets him apart from each other. (Also read: Adapting quickly to Indian conditions will be key for New Zealand: Ish Sodhi to India Today)”Smith, Root are both great players as well and I think all different players have different strengths, trying to stick to their own game plans, their own strengths and I suppose there lies the beauty of the game.”TOUGH CHALLENGE AHEADWilliamson, who is part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL), admitted playing India at home is one of the toughest challenges.advertisement”We know it will be a challenge. India in their home conditions is one of the toughest challenges in the game, specially in the longest format. New Zealand is quite excited to take them on, specially after returning from Zimbabwe and South Africa where the conditions are quite different,” he said.”We have a number of guys in the team who have been a part of the IPL for a few years now and no doubt those experiences help.””The format is different and the focus is on Test cricket at the moment but still I suppose those conditions are something that we can draw from little bit to try and help in preparations going into this series. It’s a different format, we’ll have to prepare well.””During the previous series in India (against South Africa), spin certainly played a huge part and I think batting was difficult. I have no doubt it will be a bit of a scare, so spin from both teams will play a big part. We have three good spinners and it should be a good contest,” he added.PLAYING SPIN PROPERLY THE KEYExpecting a spin-dominated series, Kiwi coach Mike Hesson, who was seated beside the captain, said the team will bank on the previous experiences of playing in sub-continent conditions. (Also read: New Zealand eye reverse swing to escape India’s spin trap)”We spent a lot of time in Bulawayo in Zimbabwe before South Africa, so that was a pretty much spin dominant series (against Zimbabwe) and was in similar conditions and pace with what we expect in India.”It’s very difficult for us to replicate those conditions at home, so the week ahead of the first Test is crucial for recovery and preparing individual game plans but most of the players have played here before and certainly had success in the sub-continent and we will certainly go on that experience as well,” he said.Going into the high-profile series, New Zealand’s biggest headache will be the form of swashbuckling opener Martin Guptill, who recently scored 7, 8 and 0 from the Test series defeat in South Africa.But Williamson is unfazed with the recent slump, and backed the 29-year-old as a world class cricketer.”Martin (Guptil) has been working very hard. We know that he is a world class cricketer and he has shown that a lot in the white ball format and certainly we are backing him to do well with the red ball,” he said.