KARACHI: International cricket’s shortest format has been aptly adapted by the South-Asian nations as a much-loved one and where they have made a huge impact since its inception.
Only India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan (twice) have reached the final of the two World Twenty20 tournaments taken place so far and much of the same looks on the cards as the teams arrive in the West Indies. Pakistan and India are missing key players but, according to the team managements, credible backup exists to make up for the loss.b
Defending champions remain strong
Suited to the ‘crash-and-bang’ format that the youngsters grow up breathing on the streets, Pakistan are once again strong favourites to reach the final of the third edition.
Despite the forced absence of Umer Gul Pakistan’s fast-bowling remains a potent force with Mohammad Aamir, the debutant who impressed all in England, as well as Mohammad Asif, bowling with the unerring accuracy that continues to annoy batsmen. The batting remains strong enough to disrupt the oppositions’ plans. Opening remains a cause for concern but Kamran Akmal looks set to resume duties at the top with Shahid Afridi promoting himself to number three in order to cause as much destruction as possible.
Pakistan’s middle-order remains weak in the absence of Younus Khan and Shoaib Malik but the attacking tendency instilled in Umar Akmal and Hammad Azam can ensure plenty of fireworks even in the middle overs.
India vow to improve on last year
The defending champions arrived in England last year with heads held high (that went higher following a warm-up thrashing of Pakistan). However, the strongest batting line-up in the tournament faltered, especially as short deliveries grew tall and before the semi-finals were even finalised, the Indian team were sitting across the Atlantic training to take on the West Indies.
The IPL was blamed for the exhaustion last year but this time it may prove a blessing for them. MS Dhoni lifted the trophy for Chennai, Yusuf Pathan scored a blistering 37-ball century and Zaheer Khan refused to fade away. Harbajhan Singh carried on his wicket-taking ways and with Murali Vijay in death-mode, a repeat of last year looks highly unlikely for a team that remains strong even without Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.
Sri Lanka desperate to go one better
The Sri Lankans were surprise but worthy finalists last year and it was not Sanath Jayasuria or Chaminda Vaas that got them there but the unorthodox stroke-play – if Dil-Scoops and paddles can be labelled that – off the bat of Tillekaratne Dilshan. He remained the tournament’s highest scorer by a distance and was voted the player of the tournament as well. Although teams will be wary of his extended handle, Dilshan will no doubt continue his merry ways.
Mahela Jayawardene, in astonishing form with the bat during the IPL, may even move up the order to free up an all-rounder’s slot with captain Kumar Sangakkara’s versatility ensuring Sri Lanka will be likely to post competitive totals every time they take the field. Ajantha Mendis does not remain the force he once was but the spinning tracks in the Caribbean may prove ideal location for him to revive his and the team’s fortunes.
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