KARACHI: With a preview of the minnows, the round-up of the 12 teams competing in the 2010 World Twenty20 comes to an end.
The tournament begins today with New Zealand taking on last year’s losing finalists Sri Lanka with hosts West Indies facing Ireland in the second match. The unimaginable rise Afghanistan does not sound like a very familiar name on the cricketing field but they have come a long way. Since starting with the World Cricket League Division Five and rising to gain One-Day International (ODI) status last year, they stamped their existence on the cricket map winning the World Twenty20 Qualifiers.
The world is just waiting to see what surprise they have in store next. Afghanistan take on former champions India in their first match with both Asian teams having a lot to play for. India - knocked out of the last event in the group stages - and Afghanistan, making their first appearance alongside full members of the International Cricket Council, will both want a win for similar reasons. Bolstered by a win against Ireland in a warm-up match – a convincing one no less – and coached by former Pakistan bowler Kabir Khan, Afghanistan boast no big names but lots of promise.
Dawlat Ahmadzai claimed four for 15 while Ashghar Stanikzai and Mohammad Nabi batted with Twenty20 aggression to show glimpses of their potential in the warmup while wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad smashed 214 as Afghanistan chased an incredible 494 to win against Canada at the ICC Intercontinental Cup. Tigers ready to pounce Bangladesh may not have the statistics to back them but they have always caused an upset. Granted the ODI status in 1996, Bangladesh took their time rising through the ranks, springing up a suprise here and there.
Their very first appearance in a World Cup, in 1999, brought down mighty Pakistan. But if their recent form is any insight to their chances, Bangladesh have lost all four Twenty20 matches played in the last year, including one to Ireland in last year’s tournament. However, with a win against Barbados by 36 runs in a warmup, Bangladesh would be feeling a little better. They finished eighth in 2009, interestingly ahead of Australia, and with a destructive Tamim Iqbal and Aftab Ahmed at the top of the order, Bangladesh may well cause some surprises in their first match against defending champions Pakistan tomorrow. Abdur Razzak - 19 wickets in 11 Twenty20 matches - might want to exploit Paksitan’s vulnerable top order.
Irish potential Ireland finished rock-bottom in last year’s competition and lost their warm-up against Afghanistan. They lost 3-0 to West Indies XI earlier this month and were defeated by New Zealand as well. Phil Simmons, former West Indies cricketer and now coach of Ireland, blamed his team’s complacency for the defeat. The only way is up now for the Irish as they take on the hosts West Indies. Northants’ opener Niall O’Brien and captain William Porterfield are two men who take pride of being part of the team that beat Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup and are ready to pounce on that vigour again. They also beat Bangladesh in last year’s competition and qualified for the super-eight stages to remind us of their potential.