Did somebody say World T20?
Despite the number of domestic T20 leagues led by the IPL, the ICC World T20 will be a different level altogether.
The World T20 2012 is set to commence in Sri Lanka tomorrow. This will be the first time this event is being held in an Asian country.
The tournament will open the day after tomorrow, with the hosts taking on Zimbabwe at Hambantota. Despite the number of domestic T20 leagues led by the IPL, the ICC World T20 is at a totally different level altogether. It will feature the highest standard of T20 cricket with the best players of the format competing on a single platform.
First let’s take a look at the grouping of the 12 countries participating in this year’s tournament; it comprises the 10 Test playing nations in addition to Ireland and Afghanistan who qualified from the associate member nations.
The format is the same as the 2010 edition with four groups of three teams respectively. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the super eight round, leading to the semi-finals, and lastly the final in Colombo on October 7.
Looking at the grouping, it is likely that England and India qualify from Group A, Australia and the West Indies seem to be the two stronger sides in Group B. However, watch out for Ireland, as they have surprised us in the past. In Group C, Zimbabwe is the weak link and Sri Lanka and South Africa are the obvious favourites. Finally, in Group D, Pakistan are quite certain to qualify but Bangladesh and New Zealand will battle for the second spot.
Defending champions, England, are without their star player Kevin Pietersen due to differences between him and the English Cricket Board. Let’s not forget he was named "player of the tournament" in England’s successful campaign and he has been in great form in the last few months.
On the other hand, Australia is without their bowling spearhead Brett Lee due to his retirement a couple of weeks ago. Their bowling seems to lack firepower but David Warner and the Hussey brothers will carry most of the Australian hopes on their shoulders.
In my opinion, the toughest teams this year are South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Pakistan and India. Four out of these five teams are likely to make in to the semi-finals in this year’s tournament.
Undoubtedly the most in-form side in international cricket at this point is South Africa. They have a strong batting order consisting of Hashim Amla, Richard Levi and Jaques Kallis, in addition to a lower order with immense firepower with the likes of de Villiers and Albie Morkel. Arguably the finest bowling attack featuring Dale Steyn makes South Africa the most balanced side in the tournament.
Despite having the advantage of playing in home conditions, the recently concluded SLPL will give the Sri Lankan’s priceless match practice ahead of the tournament. The Sri Lankan side, led by Mahela Jayawardene comprises a high class bowling unit with the likes of the most dangerous bowler in T20 cricket, Lasith Malinga, along with their two spinners, Herath and Mendis. The spinners are likely to play a key role in Sri Lankan conditions. Their batting order is solid with the explosive Dilshan at the top, along with the experienced Sangakara and Jayawardene and, of course, all-rounder Angelo Mathews, who has been in good form recently.
The West Indies are emerging to be a great force in T20 cricket. They possess the biggest names going around in T20 leagues these days. Chris Gayle on his day can demolish any bowling attack in the world and can win a match for his team single-handedly. Also, the player of the tournament in the 2012 season of the IPL, Sunil Narine, will get reasonable assistance in Sri Lankan conditions. In addition, they have great firepower in their batting lineup with the likes of Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith, and not to forget the competitive leadership of their inspirational captain Darren Sammy.
This is the most talented and unpredictable side in international cricket. Pakistan is going in the 2012 tournament with a very well balanced squad. They have undoubtedly the best bowling attack in the tournament due to the variety of bowling options present in the team. In addition to this, Imran Nazir has been very confident lately and is making a comeback in the side. Nazir is expected to be one of the key performers, along with Kamran Akmal at the top of the order. Mohammad Hafeez will lead the Pakistan team in this year’s tournament. The middle and lower order consists of Umar Akmal , Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq, who are match-winning players and need no introduction. The pace attack will be led by Umer Gul and Sohail Tanvir whereas the spin attack will be led by the great Saeed Ajmal who seems to be going from strength to strength.
MS Dhoni will be looking to lead his team to yet another world cup victory after successfully winning the ODI World Cup in 2011. He possesses great leadership skills besides being one of the great finishers and wicket-keepers in modern day cricket.
India’s strength is their batting order comprises great stroke makers including Sehwag, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli. Their bowling will be led by Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan, but is no comparison to the quality of their batting, however, Dhoni is great at utilising whatever bowling options are available.
With the hype that has been created after the SLPL, cricket followers anxiously await the World T20 2012. It seems like this will be a tournament of epic proportions!
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