• Sunday, March 01, 2015

Big boys ready to play

Sakeb Subhan
Australia opener David Warner hits the ball on the on-side during the ICC World Twenty20 warm-up match against New Zealand at the Fatullah Stadium yesterday. PHOTO: AFP
Australia opener David Warner hits the ball on the on-side during the ICC World Twenty20 warm-up match against New Zealand at the Fatullah Stadium yesterday. PHOTO: AFP

So far, the focus of the World Twenty20 has been on Bangladesh and their progress through their Qualifying Group A to secure a place in the Super 10 stage that begins from tomorrow. But apart from the Tigers die-hards, the serious business of the World Twenty20 begins tomorrow with the mother of all rivalries -- India v Pakistan -- set to set the stage alight at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium tomorrow.
Over the following ten days the good and great of the format will lock horns and the standard of cricket will be at nosebleed levels.

As far as the big drawcards go, Group B is where it's at with India, Pakistan, West Indies, Australia and to a lesser extent the hosts (if things do not go terribly off course) fighting it out for two semifinal spots. West Indies are the defending champions while India and Pakistan are both former winners. Australia however may be the team to watch. A side packed with power hitters, the men from Down Under gave notice of their threat yesterday when they rattled up 200 for seven with wreckers-in-chief David Warner and Aaron Finch both wracking up innings at strike rates of over 200 before retiring hurt. But the reply that New Zealand gave, falling three runs short, shows that there is no such thing as a favourite in this format.

While on paper Group B may have the stronger sides, a lesser light like New Zealand giving Australia such a run for their money lends further credence to the notion that T20 is a game for the side that is stronger on the day -- or to be more accurate, stronger for three hours of the day. Sri Lanka are certainly a hot contender, having been in Bangladesh for the last two months and also being the top-ranked side in the format. After Pakistan, they are the most consistent performers in the tournament.
The other hot contender in that group, South Africa, may finally get their big-tournament act right as they have a side brimming with talent, though doubts over Dale Steyn may prove to be the spanner in the works.
For England it may be a stretch too far to do anything out of the ordinary in conditions that do not suit them or with a team still settling after a period of flux. New Zealand will count on their big hitters such as Corey Anderson and Brendon McCullum but with a weak spin department may, like England, find the going tough.

The captains have been saying the same thing in the lead-up -- that a team that gets on a roll will give themselves a great chance to win it and that to win a match you need two or three players to hit form. By that logic the in-form players must be placed at a premium. Choosing five among the many, Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka must come out on top as the batsman in red-hot form. India's Virat Kohli is the best young batsman going around, while Australia's Warner has been plundering runs in all formats. Whatever current form he is in, West Indies' Chris Gayle will always be a danger and his recent fifties could be a bad omen for bowlers. Last but not least, Shahid Afridi of Pakistan is in imperious touch with the bat, and being the quintessential T20 player, he will be integral to Pakistan's fortunes.

Published: 12:01 am Thursday, March 20, 2014

Last modified: 1:37 am Thursday, March 20, 2014

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