Had enough of Twenty20 cricket – the IPL, the ICL, domestic T20 competitions and the inaugural Champions League? Tough. The ICC World Twenty20 is back on the international calendar after 11 months away. If fast scoring and rash shots aren’t your thing, best divert your gaze away from the Caribbean until after May 16th.
The great thing about the World Twenty20 (for fans and those who loathe it) is that it is not a long, drawn out competition. The ICC must have learnt from the debacle that was the most recent 50 over World Cup, also played in the Caribbean, and they should be applauded for this. The Indian Premier League should take note; less can, in fact, be more.
The one thing that the World Twenty20 and the IPL have in common, however, is that they are both money spinning operations. The ICC is clearly cashing in on its new favourite son by hosting the third World Cup in this format less than a year after the second that came a year after the first. For purposes of longevity and sporting relevance, this sequence cannot continue – a biennial tournament would surely be the most workable scenario.
When it comes to the action, it has been the sub-continent sides that have dominated the Twenty20 format. India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have competed in previous finals, India winning the inaugural bash in South Africa at Pakistan’s expense before Pakistan went one better at Sri Lanka’s expense in England last summer. The cricketing world could well be in for more of the same during the first two weeks of May.
Here on The Cricket Blog, we take a closer look at the eight main competitors in the Caribbean to asses their hopes ahead of the tournament.
The hosts are more than a match for anyone on their day and will be desperate to impress in front of their home crowds after a tumultuous 2009. They will need captain Chris Gayle to be in the destructive form that he displayed at The Oval last year against Australia and Kieron Pollard to explode as he did for Mumbai Indians in the recent IPL.
Prediction: Should qualify for the Super Eights at the expense of Ireland in Group D. Hard to see them being consistent enough to progress from there though.
The Aussies haven’t quite taken to Twenty20 as most expected. Disappointing results last year led to an early exit and a humiliating defeat to Zimbabwe lingers long in the memory from the inaugural event. Don’t question their hunger, though – this is the only tournament that has eluded Ricky Ponting’s men. Much will depend on their skipper, as well as Michael Clarke and IPL sensation Doug Bollinger, particularly now that Brett Lee has been ruled out through injury.
Prediction: Will top group A ahead of Pakistan and march on into the semi-finals, where their tournament will come to an abrupt end.
Where to begin? A poor man’s version of Pakistan at times, they could be brilliant, could be woeful. With Kevin Pietersen expected to miss at least part of the tournament due to the imminent birth of his first child – poor forward planning there on behalf of the Pietersens, although would it be too much to observe that the birth wasn’t pencilled in during the IPL? (It would be, yes) – it is hard to see anyone with the character to drag England onwards.
Yet another opening partnership highlights a lack of consistency and Paul Collingwood and Graeme Swann will need to the prop the side up, again. If it all goes a little awry as expected, they could always point to the volcanic ash cloud that enveloped Europe for disrupting their preparation in arriving for the tournament.
Prediction: Could lose both group games to West Indies and Ireland. Could make the Super Eights. Could make the semi-finals. Could win it. Who Knows? Super Eights exit most likely.
The adopted homeland of Twenty20 will fancy its chances of winning back the World Twenty20 crown. They will, however, be a significantly weaker side for the loss of Virender Sehwag and all his talent and experience, although Murali Vijay is a pretty handy replacement. MS Dhoni is arguably the best captain at the tournament in terms of tactical guile and his own powerful performances, whilst a strong bowling unit supports the explosive batting line-up.
Prediction: It’s difficult to look beyond them as favourites. No Sachin Tendulkar in this format and no Sehwag, but there is enough strength in depth. Finalists.
A steady outfit in limited overs cricket, they will be heavily reliant upon captain and star performer Daniel Vettori, who often looks like a man amongst boys in a New Zealand shirt. Brendon McCullum has displayed his pyrotechnics in this format but the squad looks thin elsewhere with an emphasis on experience. If this is a young man’s game, no one has told New Zealand.
Prediction: Super Eights. Not much expected here and the side usually seems to enjoy its cricket together. Unlikely, however, that they will spring enough surprises to mix it with the ‘big boys’.
It would take a man of the ilk of Nostradamus to predict what on earth will happen here. With the tournament not starting until Friday there is plenty of time for controversy and perhaps another round of international bans to be meted out by the inept PCB. Shahid Afridi, Kamran and Umar Akmal (weren’t they banned by the PCB?! Must only be for Tests…) will be crucial to their chances.
Prediction: Tough group with Australia and Bangladesh could see the defending champions eliminated first up. They are equally as likely to win the whole thing. A semi-final birth, however, is within their reach.
The eternal ‘chokers’. Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn will undoubtedly be the go-to men and there is plenty of experience within the ranks; most of it of under-achieving or losing semi-finals. With attention back home predominantly on this year’s hosting of the FIFA football World Cup, however, the Proteas may be slightly less burdened with expectation and optimism than in previous years.
Prediction: Another semi-final elimination at best, Super Eights at worst. They could find themselves in a very tough Super Eights group should they fail to beat India in Group C. It is here that the tournament will end for South Africa.
Beaten finalists last time and surely no worse a side for that experience. The leading lights of Jayawardene, Sangakkara and Malinga are seasoned performers and will prove more than a match for most competitors. Then there’s the small matter of Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis. And Angelo Matthews…
Prediction: Should sail past New Zealand and Zimbabwe in Group B before storming through the Super Eights and into the knock-out stages. Our tip for the title.
The next two weeks should provide plenty of entertainment for all cricket fans and there will be no shortage of quality cricket on offer. Do you agree with our thoughts? Let us know.
By Miles Reucroft
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