Dubai: Italy stunned Oman with an emphatic nine-wicket victory in their ICC Twenty20 World Cup Qualifying opener on Tuesday — and their star player, former Australia opener Michael Di Venuto, sparkled with an unbeaten 42 to announce that the Italians are a team to reckon with.
Speaking to Gulf News, Di Venuto, who has opened the innings for Australia with Mark Taylor, said: "You will see a passionate Italian team here. They will give their best for the country. Basically we will have fun and do our best as a cricketing side and who knows what can happen in Twenty20 cricket?"
When asked how he came to qualify to play for Italy, the 38-year-old Di Venuto said: "My father is from Italy. It is something that I am very proud of and the opportunity to play is an exciting one. My brother Peter also played for Italy about 10 years ago."
Di Venuto represented Australia in eight One Day Internationals and hit two half-centuries. Though he played his last match for Australia in 1997 against New Zealand, he continued to be a prolific scorer for Tasmania.
Well known for his hook, pull and square cut shots, he is hailed as one of the finest left-handers. He regularly excited fans in England through stints with Derbyshire and Durham.
In fact, he played a leading role in Durham's County Championship triumph in 2009, scoring 1,601 runs at an average of 80.05 with his six hundreds. He even cracked an unbeaten 254 against Sussex and 219 against Nottinghamshire.
"I have been on the radar for the Italians for a while but obviously due to my commitments with Tasmania and also in England's county cricket there has not been any real opportunity to play. Now that the opportunity has presented itself and opened up nicely, I am looking forward to enjoying the next couple of weeks," said Di Venuto, who is hopeful about cricket becoming more popular in Italy.
"Cricket is developing but certainly it is not a big sport in Italy. The Italian cricket has done a great job to get to this stage."