With the first phase of the tournament almost complete, the 2014 World T20 starts in earnest tomorrow when it moves onto the second group stage and introduces the top eight. Bangladesh join them, Ireland look set to.
The first stage has been interesting. It is not very often that we get to see the likes of Nepal, Hong Kong and the UAE in action. The match between Zimbabwe and Ireland was also an absolute thriller, with Ireland doing their best to throw away a comfortable winning positioning by leaving it so late as to scramble a bye off the game’s final ball to secure the win.
With the competition set to intensify, we take a look at the groups and pick out those players that we think are going to be most important to their side. To recap, you can read our predictions for the tournament, here: http://www.thecricketblog.com/world-t20-2014-preview-and-predictions/ it at least looks as though we have got the first part right!
Sri Lanka – These represent familiar conditions to Sri Lanka and they should advance from this group, not least because England are dire and South Africa look light on individual match winners. Match winners like Lasith Malinga, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakeratne Dilshan. Our man to watch, however, is Ajantha Mendis. Whilst he never kicked on in the longer formats of the game, Mendis’s mystery spin is incredibly tough to get away, as a T20i economy rate of 6.16 says. If he finds some form, he could pick up crucial wickets and really turn the screw on the opposition.
England – This looks a forlorn hope. A side in disarray and jam packed with simply average cricketers. Captain Stuart Broad might not feature due to injury and vice-captain Eoin Morgan has been a long way from his best for a while now. When Ravi Bopara is a key component, you know you are in trouble. His all-round skills are crucial to England, but can he score runs when the chips are down? If he can find some form and fluidity to his batting, he could drag England’s sorry batting toward respectability.
South Africa – A side in transition and a side without much pedigree when it comes to knock out tournaments. Faf du Plessis can count on the likes of AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, but this is a good side devoid of a real spark. That’s why they have gambled on Albie Morkel. The man himself was not expecting the call, but here he is. Can bowl useful medium pace, but it is his explosive batting that once made him such a feared T20 specialist that South Africa will be looking to. If he can rediscover his form of old, his could be an inspired selection.
New Zealand – You can never rule the Kiwis out and we expect them to advance. There is star quality in Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor and the recently emerged Corey Anderson. Much, however, will depend upon frontline spinner Nathan McCullum, Brendon’s older brother. If there is one area of weakness in this side, you would point to the spin bowling attack, but if McCullum can lead that attack and keep things tight, it will go a long way toward Kiwi success at this tournament.
West Indies – The defending champions cannot be dismissed and, as ever, all eyes will be on Christopher Henry Gayle. And Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo. Their explosiveness is well documented, but it will be the subtlety of Samuel Badree that could shape West Indies’ tournament. He often bowls in the power play and his T20i economy of 5.38 is outstanding. If he makes early inroads will his full array of leg spinning tricks, then West Indies will be a serious threat here.
India – India’s win in the inaugural World T20 sparked the T20 revolution and the inception of the IPL, but this side looks to be faltering and struggling for identity. Yuvraj Singh harks back to the golden days, but can he reproduce his best form? His all-round abilities were a key component of India’s rise in the format and will be crucial to any Indian success here. He just fetched a whopping IPL auction fee, too, so there is a lot of pressure on Yuvi to deliver.
Pakistan – As ever, expect the unexpected. This is a side oozing with all-round match winners in Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal. For Pakistan to prosper, however, they will need to lay solid foundations, which is why young opener Ahmed Shehzad will be such an important component. If he gets the side off on the right foot, there could be no stopping them. The 22 year old has had a very promising start to his international career and could become a star name over the course of this tournament.
Australia – The loss of Mitchell Johnson with a shoulder injury is a massive blow to the Aussies. There is no substitute to outright pace, as Johnson has shown in recent months. The elder statesmen of the side, Brads Hodge and Hogg, could have a say, but experienced all-rounder Cameron White is the man to keep an eye on. When he tees off with the bat he goes big, and if he delivers here, it could drag Australia towards some pretty formidable totals.
By Miles Reucroft