The Long and Short of the Laconic Labouring
A preview of the second ICC World Twenty20 commencing on June the fifth.
Change is the only constant in life. How true it is! Barely a decade old, the shortest form of cricket has become the craze all over the world, cricketing as well as non-cricketing. Some things never change, and we’re back to square one. World cricket has returned to its home, and in traditional conditions. What better country than England, and what better time than June to hold this tournament?
Beginning this Friday is the second ICC World T-20, a tournament that has generated much hype, behind the IPL. Of the twelve teams that contest for glory, six teams are favourites, two others are close behind, and the rest may spring surprises. Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, India and England all are capable of beating any team on their day. West Indies, with their Test-cricket-hating-T20-loving captain and New Zealand are dangerous on their day. Bangladesh and the rest are also not to be taken lightly. So, let’s get into the thick of things.
Group A: India, Bangladesh, Ireland
Group B: Pakistan, England, Netherlands
Group C: Australia, Sri Lanka, West Indies
Group D: New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland
Of the top six, Australia, South Africa and Pakistan loom large on my radar, largely due to their pace bowlers. Let’s take a look at the test playing nations, and my rating for each, on a scale of 0 to 1.
Batting: They have some destructive players in Symonds, Watson(if fit), Brad Haddin and David Hussey. Skip Punter and Pup Clarke are no pushovers either, so their batting is fairly strong. Rating:0.75
Bowling: Arguably among the top two pace attacks in this tournament. Mitch Johnson, Nathan Bracken and Brett Lee can demolish any batting order, and they’ve got good support from ‘Roy’ Symonds and David Hussey to slow down the pace. They lack in the spin department, and that may be a factor for their lower rating. As I write this, I see Mitch bowling Bangladesh’s Siddique with a 91 mile scorcher. Rating: 0.72
Fielding: This is a very important aspect in the shortest form rather than any other, so we take this into account. The Aussies are among the best fielding teams at the moment, but what needs some looking in is the not so electic fielding in recent times. But Roy has returned, so he’d be prowling the whole inner ring on one side if necessary. Rating: 0.70
Watch out for: Andrew Symonds.
Overall rating: 0.72
Batting: Their batting has been very brittle of late, with Ashraful running out of form. Some of the younger players like Tamim Iqbal and Naeem Islam. They’re feeling the pangs of the ICL exodus, but watch out for Shakib Al Hasan and Mithun Ali, a young dasher whose role model is Adam Gilchrist. Rating:0.55
Bowling: This is the Bangladeshi’s Achilles Heel, with the ICL greatly eroding the bowling attack. Mashrafe Mortaza, Shahadat Hossain and Syed Rasel form their fast bowling attack with Shakib Al Hasan taking care of the spin department. Rating: 0.50
Fielding: The Bangla Tigers have always been tigers on the field, they excel with their commitment. But they need to look onto the catching department if they are to spring a few surprises. Rating: 0.65
Watch out for: Shakin Al Hasan, their best allrounder and probably best player. Mithun Ali, wannabe Gilly.
Overall rating: 0.58
Batting: Their batting has been rejuvenated after the home series against the West Indies, and with Matt Prior coming good, the batting looks solid. They might be vulnerable against spin, but Ravi Bopara can handle both pace and spin with equal elan, so can Pietersen and Collingwood. They’ve got some beefy players who can hit it real long, Freddie if fit can be devastating on his day. Rating:0.67
Bowling: This is the department where they have made rapid strides of late, with a world class spin bowler in Graeme Swann showing glimpses of England’s legendary spinners. Broad, Anderson and Sidebottom form a talented and at times, destructive trio, so the fast bowling department is in good shape. Rating: 0.70
Fielding: The English have an awesome fielder for a captain in Collie. His dynamicism has rubbed off on the rest too, and it showed in the home series against West Indies. The catch he took to dismiss Virender Sehwag last year is still fresh in my mind. Rating: 0.70
Watch out for: Stuart Broad, he might become the next all rounder England are waiting for. Ravi Bopara, he is arguably the best English batsman in this format.
Overall rating: 0.69
Batting: Their batting order is the most destructive and intimidating, on paper at least. They’ve got issues with the form of key players like Gambhir, Sehwag and Yuvraj. And it remains to be seem how the in form Raina and Rohit Sharma fare in alien conditions which aid swing and spin bowling. The captain has run into some form of late, but needs to sustain it and call upon his big hitting abilities. Yusuf Pathan can also hit the ball a mile, but he has to prove his mettle in these conditions. Rating:0.73
Bowling: Their bowling has really improved over the past 2-3 years, but what has not improved is their inconsistency. Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan are the main culprits leaking tons of runs. RP Singh and Zaheer Khan can be quite a handful for most batsmen in these conditions. Bhajji and Ojha can take care of the spin department, with support from Yuvraj, Raina, Yusuf Pathan and Sehwag, who may very well be Dhoni’s trumpcards. Rating: 0.70
Fielding: This young Indian team is the best fielding outfit in decades, the young blood fuelling the team. Still they need to concentrate on their catching and outfielding. Rating: 0.70
Watch out for: Yusuf Pathan, the IPL wonder and Suresh Raina, he may become an allrounder if Dhoni persists with his IPL strategies.
Overall rating: 0.72
5. New Zealand:
Batting: Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill( I wonder if his dad’s name was Gupta and he was ill when he was born! Funny name, that) and Neil Broom are having a great run if late, and if Jesse Ryder rides piggyback on them he can get bak to form too. They’ve got many utility players who can step up in case of a top order collapse. Brendon has been anchoring the innings of late, so the batting is in fine form barring Jesse. But they are the most prone to collapses among the Test playing teams, which pulls things back.Rating:0.68
Bowling: Daniel ‘Harry Potter’ Vettori is as always tough to handle. Jacob Oram also showed some semblance of good form in the IPL, so he can form a formidable combination with Kyle Mills, Ian Butler and James Franklin. These guys can bat too, so they give the Black Caps an edge. Rating: 0.68
Fielding: They’re among the most consistent fielding sides, even their wicketkeeper makes for a good fielder (Remember that catch off Kallis’ bat in the IPL?). They’re traditionally a good fielding outfit, so there’s no reason they shouldn’t deserve a better rating than other teams. Rating: 0.75
Watch out for: Jesse Ryder, Martin Guptill and Neil Broom. They are all very talented players, and the future of this team. Ross Taylor too can be devastating.
Overall rating: 0.69
Batting: Impact players abound in this interesting team with Younis Khan, Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal, Misbah ul Haq and Shoaib Malik being the mainstays of their batting. Afridi can be unpredictable, so you can never write him off. Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir can also bat, so they bat pretty deep. But they are prone to complacency and collapses. Rating:0.70
Bowling: They’ve got the best and most complete T-20 bowling attack. Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir can wreck havoc on English surface, with Ifthikar Anjum providing able backup. Afridi has grown in stature as a bowler and is their premier spinner, he has company from Malik and Ajmal in this department. With variety and talent, they form an all-round bowling attack. Rating: 0.75
Fielding: They’re among the better fielding sides, but are almost always inconsistently consistent(or the other way around, it means the same). They need to field well in every game for success in this format. Rating: 0.68
Watch out for: The whole team is composed of fantastic players. ShahidAfridi, Kamran Akmal and Saeed Ajmal would be my pick.
Overall rating: 0.71
7. South Africa:
Batting: They’re the in-form batting team going into this tournament, with a top order manned by Skip Smith and Gibbs. The middle order is the best with all players in form, Kallis, Duminy, AB, Amla and Boucher can drop anchor or go bonkers so they are really running hot now. Another weapon in their arsenal is the opposite hitter van der Merwe. Rating: 0.72
Bowling: Dale Steyn reminds one of Donald, he seems to me an upgraded version of the White Lightning. Wayne Parnell and Yusuf Abdulla have shown plenty of promise, they must be able to use the conditions in the Old Blighty well enough. Johan Botha mans the spin department very well along with Roelof van der Merwe. Rating: 0.73
Fielding: The Proteas have some of the best fielders in AB de Villiers, Gibbs and Duminy. They’re at the top in this department along with the Black Caps. Rating: 0.75
Watch out for: Wayne Parnell can swing the ball. It remains to be seen if van der Merwe can prosper in these conditions.
Overall rating: 0.73
8. Sri Lanka:
Batting: They’ve got the most complete batting order in the tournament. Several hitters in Jayasuriya, Dilshan and Chamara Silva are well complemented by the calm of Jayawardena and Sangakarra. You can expect an encore from the old warhorse Sanath anytime. Their lower order is pretty brittle, so anyone can run through them after removing the top four. Rating: 0.70
Bowling: Lasith Malinga is a sensational bowler, with the ability to breach all but the staunchest of defences. Accompanying him are Kulasekara, Murali the Magician and Mysterious Mendis. Old fox Jayasuriya can also be deceptive, so the Lankans have enough ammo here. Rating: 0.72
Fielding: The Lankans are lions on the field with even their oldest players exhibiting great athleticism. Dilshan is among the best in the world, so they’re pretty strong here. Rating: 0.72
Watch out for: Lasith ‘The Slinger’ Malinga can break through many defences. Skipper Sangakarra can score at any pace.
Overall rating: 0.71
9. West Indies:
Batting: Their T-20 loving captain Gayle is among the best hitters. Sarwan can score in any situation, Chanderpaul can play along in his own way. Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Xavier Marshall are all hard hitters reminiscent of the golden days of Caribbean cricket. One only wishes that they can follow in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors. They are prone to sudden collapses, so that’s their main weakness – they collapse too often. Rating: 0.68
Bowling: Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor form a nice opening pair, with Lionel Baker showing promise. Bravo can also swing his arm over, so they have a pretty decent attack. Sulieman Benn is proving to be a good spinner, he needs support to excel in this format. He has company from skip. Rating: 0.70
Fielding: Their fielding is a paradox, swinging between the awesome and the awful in a single game. They can enthrall and encumber with their fielding. They lack consistency and drop catches too often, this needs to be worked upon. Rating: 0.65
Watch out for: Kieron Pollard and Xavier Marshall. They are tailor made for this format, so they can propel the innings in the middle overs. Dwayne Bravo, if he carries his IPL form, can win matches on his own.
Overall rating: 0.67
So, there we are. We’ve rated all the teams based on recent form, so it must provide some pointers. But this format is too short to predict anything, so all calculations can go berserk anytime.
Salvadesswaran Srinivasan, is a student of Computer Science and Engineering at SSN, Chennai, India. He writes about cricket and other topics close to his heart at leisure.
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