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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

T20 WC 2012 starts today - A primer and more in to the game


Today is a big day for Cricket -September 18, 2012 at 1930 local (1400 GMT) – the host Lankans take on Zimbabwe.  There is no big bash planned for the opening of World Twenty20 in Hambantota, no music concert, no fireworks and no trapeze artists.  Only  a cricket match and both Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe are likely to be grateful that they, not a sideshow, will take center stage.  It is going to set in motion the T20 World Cup 2012 – commencing today and culminating on 7th Oct 2012. 

It is the most talked about and touted about to be the most fascinating version of the game, though not for the connoisseurs. There are going to be 27 matches, most of which could drag for a nail-baiting finish down the wire.  There are 4 groups and of the three, two of the teams are going to travel to the next round of Super 8. So all that India requires is a win over Afghanistan to qualify to the next level.

Group A – England, India, Afghanistan;    Group B – Australia, West Indies, Ireland;     Group C – Sri Lanka, South Africa, Zimbabwe; Group D – Pakistan, New Zealand, Bangladesh
Captains of participating teams [courtesy www.cricinfo.com] - how many can you recognise ?

In a shorter version of the game, an early slip up could end a tem’s fortune even as it begins. That way the inaugural match itself can be threatening and more lively. It should be more scarier for Sri Lanka than it is for Zimbabwe. Sri Lanka are expected not to slip up, especially because the tournament is taking place at home and their reputation as runners-up was given a fresh unveiling at least year's fifty-over World Cup. For Zimbabwe's coach, Alan Butcher, and his charges, this tournament is nothing more than an opportunity. It is a chance to show that they are still active on the world stage, even though they have not been on it for almost eight months. It is a chance to show that they are still producing talented players and have the capacity to nurture that talent. And maybe, just maybe, it is a chance to achieve something that no-one would think them capable of.

The shortest version of the game is all about its unpredictability – since the inaugural version in 2007, there has been no pattern of dominance emerging. India, who won the first tournament, failed to reach the semi-final stage of the subsequent two tournaments while Australia, the top team in Tests and ODIs for much of the 2000s, have struggled to conquer the T20 format. Ironically, Pakistan, notorious for their inconsistency, have been the best side in the tournament's brief history, making two finals (winning in 2009) and the semi-final in 2010.  Perhaps WI should fancy their chances  not only because of the abundance of individual talent with Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard being the most explosive and most fearsome in this version, they have the advantage of many of their players being around in these conditions. 

The inaugural 2007 ICC World T20 was staged in South Africa in Sept 2007; second at England in June 2009; the third at West Indies in May 2010 and the 4th now at Sri Lanka.  There is no official format as a World Cup in Test Cricket and the ODI World Cup is much more organized as it is conducted once in four years – the pattern is missing in T 20.  In its defence it must be said that it has attracted or rather provided opportunities to more countries and thus you have : Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Canada, England, India, Ireland, Kenya, Nederlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, and Zimbabwe having featured in T20 Internationals and players from these countries happily boasting of having played in an International match, which has never occurred in Test Cricket.

Those who have watched Test cricket over the years, may keep harping that pyjama cricket is a poor substitute for the intricacies of Test cricket – but this has come to stay and certainly has attracted more people in to watching that ever before.   With its scope for unlimited uncertainties, it will be hard to predict with any confidence as to who will win – still we fancy our chances of winning the Cup another time.  T20 itself has a little history with the first ever T20 International being played between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park, Auckland on 17th Feb 2005.  Oh not so long !.  India has not played much [forget IPL here] the first T20 featuring India was the match against South Africa at New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg on 1st Dec 2006 and India won by 6 wickets with 1 ball remaining

In a 120 ball contest [not to speak of no balls and wides] – Lankans have made the most – a run rate of 13 per over having made 260/6 against Kenya ; followed by SA’s 241/6 against England; Australia 221/ against England; SA 219/4 against India and India’s 218/4 against England at Durban are the top 5.  Now there is lot exciting to look forward to as the crowds response will further decide the primacy of this format over other versions of the game.  This is a different game than the IPL as there is the honour of playing for the country and not for a club – the compositions of the teams could be far different than the ones witnessed at IPL club teams.

Srilanka is trying to different by taking cricket to far off places like Hambantota, an imaginary port city of the future.  They have incurred huge debts in providing infrastructure at these places and whether their strategy pays off remains to be seen, which will do the game of Cricket a lot good.                                                                                 
There is one team of capable of delivering but always dogged by internal power struggle, Pakistan had an announcement by their chairman, Zaka Ashraf, that their director-general (cricket), Javed Miandad, has been sent to Sri Lanka "to look into some team issues" does not inspire confidence that the coach and his new captain, Mohammad Hafeez.

There has been talk that pitches in Lanka have changed in recent years, but most teams would still try to dish our continental flavor with spinners and part time trundlers trying to squeeze middle overs.   This is taking place at a time, when there is not a single team [read Australia] dominating and stage thrown open with unlimited possibilities and every team fancying their chances for a place in last 4.  There are some exciting individuals who could turn heroes after the tournament

Come let us watch the fun game – exciting T20 World Cup 2012

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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