KARACHI: The third edition of the World Twenty20 starts in the West Indies today with New Zealand taking on last year’s losing finalists Sri Lanka in the tournament opener.
Pakistan will start their title defence on Saturday against Bangladesh before taking on Australia on Sunday. Hampered by the forced absence of Shoaib Malik and Rana Naveedul Hasan, Pakistan has been dealt a crucial blow with Umar Gul ruled out through injury. Captain Shahid Afridi, however, has remained confident that the team could overcome losses and prove to be successful in the shortest format of international cricket once again.
The tournament kicks off only days after the completion of the Indian Premier League, marred by controversies surrounding its chairman Lalit Modi who remains suspended. India, however, remains strong contender for the title despite giving a poor performance in last year’s tournament which they started as defending champions. Afghanistan is the only new entrant in the tournament. Its players have so far demonstrated a remarkable improvement in performance over the past two years, rubbing shoulders with the cricketing giants.
Grouped with India and South Africa, the Afghanis will be hoping for upsets in a format that has witnessed various embarrassments. The 17-day tournament sees the 12 teams divided into four groups with the top-two qualifying for the Super Eights. The final of the tournament will take place on May 16 at Kingston Oval.