Saturday March 12 2016

India favourites but T20 offers no obvious winners

Sri Lanka are the defending champions after

Sri Lanka are the defending champions after their 2016 triumph but lack of match-winners might just halt them from being able to retain their coveted title. AGENCIES PHOTO  

By ISMAIL DHAKABA KIGONGO

For purists, Twenty20 cricket remains the unwanted fast food while T est cricket retains its place as the buffet.
Despite all kinds of health warnings, you are always tempted to enjoy a plate of chips or a pair of sausages. It’s the same experience with T20. It’s now unavoidable and indispensable.

The thrill is evident in this high octane format whose sixth World Cup got underway this week with qualifiers for the lesser nations. The ‘big boys’ join the fray on Tuesday. Hosts India, who easily won the Asia Cup last Sunday in Bangladesh, start as clear favourites for a second ICC World Twenty20 title but as seen in previous tournaments, it’s tough to call.

GROUP ONE
SRI LANKA
The champions are undergoing a change of guard following the retirements of star batsmen Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. The early signs are not positive.

Strength: Since the 1996 Cricket World Cup, Sri Lanka have made themselves the best tournament team with Tillakaratne Dilshan offering an experienced hand at the top of the order.
Weakness: Coach Graham Ford has such a brittle batting line-up. In addition, their strike bowlers Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath have willing spirits but injury-plagued bodies.

Man to watch: Angelo Mathews

PREDICTION: GROUP STAGE

SOUTH AFRICA
The ultimate chokers arrive in India with the eternal burden of failure. They recently beat England 3-2 in a T20 series coming from 2-0 down to slide here with form.
Strength: There is nothing like AB de Villiers in cricket today. A clean striker of the ball, he can take on any bowling attack with a career strike rate of 128.89. Leg spinner Imran Tahir, who took 4 for 21 in a game last month, will be a bigger asset on turning wickets than a jaded Dale Steyn whose body is failing.
Weakness: After their marquee batsman falls they tend to wither. Skipper Faf du Plessis and all-rounders David Wiese, Chris Morris, Farhaan Behardien and big-hitter David Miller face an examination.
Man to watch: AB de Villiers

PREDICTION: SEMIFINALS

WEST INDIES
Windies’ ICC World Twenty20 triumph, four years ago, affirmed the game is unpredictable nature. And they do love their scandals as player strikes are common.
Strength: Like Jamaican videos, West Indies play with freedom similar to wiggling waists. Opener Chris Gayle is one boundary away from a mind-boggling score at a strike rate of 200.
Weakness: Mystery spinner Sunil Narine, top-order batsman Lendl Simmons and mid-order batsman Kieron Pollard are part of their best XI. Neither is playing and West Indies are weaker for it.
Man to watch: Chris Gayle
PREDICTION: SEMIFINALS

ENGLAND
Few can explain how England emerged champions in 2010 in West Indies. Back then, their conservative brand was destined only for the T20 ‘gods’ to defy logic.
Strength: When opening batsmen Alex Hales and Chris Roy get going, coach Trevor Bayliss’ side will be tough to stop. Under director Andrew Strauss, England have learnt to play with liberty.
Weakness: Not having a dependable spinner and an out-of-sorts Eoin Morgan will leave England gasping for breath in the hot and humid weather.
Man to watch: Alex Hales
PREDICTION: GROUP STAGE

GROUP TWO
INDIA
Winners of the inaugural edition in 2007, beating Pakistan, India is only known for cricket. Led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, they are Asia Cup champions and beat Australia this year down under.
Strength: That batting line-up is a vault where a failure for Virat Kohli sparks Rohit Sharma or Shikhar Dhawan into life. What if all fire? Spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are twins who dominate in power plays supported by veteran medium pacer Ashish Nehra.
Weakness: There aren’t any apparent weaknesses until they face New Zealand on Monday. India also know how to deal with home pressure as evidenced in the 1987 and 2011 World Cups.
Man to Watch: Virat Kohli
PREDICTION: FINALS

NEW ZEALAND
Another of those tournament teams, New Zealand can defend low totals under pressure. However, they still have not figured out how to win finals.
Strength: Their success will come down to the ability of batsmen Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and Corey Anderson to tee off.
Weakness: If they fail, ex-skipper Brendon McCullum will shoulder some of the blame for not leaving early to allow Kane Williamson to bond with his team. Their bowlers are closer to bottling than succeeding.
Man To Watch: Martin Guptill
PREDICTION: GROUP STAGE

PAKISTAN
From one scandal to controversy, Pakistan, the 2009 champions, do not even know their next step and will keep everyone guessing.
Strength: How long is the conveyor belt in Pakistan? They are able to unearth a superstar every other day but it’s the return of the previously banned Mohammed Amir that gets tongues wagging.
Weakness: With spinners Saeed Ajmal and Yasir Shah suspended, Pakistan are in trouble when the bowl is not swinging.
Man to Watch: Mohammed Amir

PREDICTION: GROUP STAGE

AUSTRALIA
Australia know how to dominate and win all matches except T20 contests and have only played one final, losing to England, six years ago. Captain Steven Smith’s side have their work cut out.

Strength: Usman Khawaja is the form batsman in world cricket. However, his place at the top of order is not guaranteed as Smith shuffles Aaron Finch and Shane Watson. They have the luxury to let David Warner bat at second drop, closer to finishers Glen Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh.

Weakness: Spinners Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar are in for a roasting in international cricket. Also, they have way too many selection headaches that must be sorted in the first week.
Man to Watch: Glen Maxwell
PREDICTION: FINALS

Overall prediction:
*India to beat Australia in final

THE 10 TEAMS
POOL A:
Sri Lanka, West Indies, South Africa, England, Qualifier

POOL B:
India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, Qualifier

2016 ICC WORLD TWENTY20


FORMER CHAMPIONS
2014: Sri Lanka
2012: West Indies
2010: England
2009: Pakistan
2007: India
QUALIFYING PHASE
GROUP A
Bangladesh, Netherlands, Ireland, Oman
GROUP B
Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Afghanistan,
Scotland

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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