Whose T20 World Cup Will It Be?
With days left in the fifth edition of ICC Cricket World T20, all the top teams are in the process of putting the final nail in their preparatory coffin. The four previous editions of the tournament have thrown up four different winners, adding to the aura of one of the most glamorous and widely followed events in international sport. And with a level playing field only adding more spice to what is already an unpredictable format, the teams know it will be a hard run in the marquee event.
The event will include ICC’s 10 Full Members and, for the first time, six ICC Associate Members (Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates), who qualified through the recently concluded ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier, UAE 2013.This will be an open tournament in a sense that every team has equal chance of winning. Still one has to bank on Asian giants (India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka). The spin friendly tracks and conditions not suiting for quick bowlers make it clear that teams with quality spinners will certainly put their effect on the results.
Apart from Asian teams, many other teams have quality spinners in their line-up. England will rely heavily on James Tredwell to spin some games towards their side. Similarly, Kane Williamson, Ronnie Hira and Nathan McCullum will try to web their magic for the Black Caps. Proteas will look to Aaron Phangiso and Imran Tahir to turn the fortune to their side. West Indies have the best spin attack among teams from outside the subcontinent in Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree with help from Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels.
Among Associate Members, Afghanistan looks to be a promising side. Their performance in the recent Asia Cup was exemplary. Added to this, they have the luxury of having five spinners in their line-up. Captain Mohammad Nabi, Hamza Hotak, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Sadiq and Samiullah Shenwari all are good spinners and are capable of troubling the best. Hong Kong looks to be a young side but two of their spinners have done well in the limited chances they’ve got. 42-year-old Najeeb Amar and 41-year-old Munir Dar have last played an ODI against India and performed well. Amar picks up 2-40 while Dar gave away only 55 in his allotted quota, in a game in which India posted mammoth 374-4. Ireland, on the other hand, too have five genuine spinners in their kitty. Among them Captain William Porterfield, George Dockrell and Paul Stirling are the ones on whom Irish hopes depend.
Much like Hong Kong, the Netherlands too are a young team and have five spinners. Pieter Seelaar, Stephan Myburgh, Michael Swart, Michael Rippon and Wesley Barresi all can be fun to watch. Nepal is the only nation in this tournament coming without having any international experience. They’ve got five-six spinners in their line-up and it will be interesting to see how they perform at the bigger level. Last but not least, the UAE too have some spinners in their line-up. But, a lot will depend on Captain Khurram Khan and Shadeep Silva to turn the UAE fortunes in this mega event. The inaugural ICC World Twenty20 was staged in South Africa and under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India earned the top honours. Looking ahead to this year’s event, Dhoni said: “It’s personally quite exciting for me as a captain, as I look forward to leading India’s quest to reclaim the ICC World Twenty20 title. If India manages to snare this coveted trophy, it will complete a unique feat as it already holds the ICC Cricket World Cup and ICC Champions Trophy. We are familiar with the conditions in Bangladesh and I’m sure they will suit our style of play.”
Pakistan and India will lock horns in their tournament openers against each other on March 21 in Dhaka and Hafeez hopes his boys will be on target from the very first ball. “Our group is an interesting one, and includes defending champions–West Indies, India, Australia as well as the side that tops Group A from the first round. And when the tournament opener is against India, then you’ve got to be on top of your game from the very first ball.” Pakistan will have lot more confident after their win over India on the very ground in Asia Cup. But, in the bigger tournaments, India have the upper hand against the arch rivals.
West Indies will try to defend the title it won in Sri Lanka. Captain Darren Sammy said: “At the last ICC World Twenty20, our slogan was ‘One Team, One Goal’, and we achieved our mission to win the tournament. We will have the same desire for this year’s tournament, as we seek to become the first team to win back-to-back ICC World Twenty20 titles. As the title-holder, we expect that all of the other teams will be coming hard at us, but no extra incentive or motivation is required when we wear the West Indies uniform.”
For India, the good thing is they have the proper side participating in the event. With the back of Captain Dhoni, Raina and Yuvraj the unit is looking far more superior. It’s up to Men in Blue to raise the bar and perform like true champions. Spinners have performed well under Captain Virat Kohli in the Asia Cup but it was the seamers who cause constant and continuous problem for the team. If India have to win this title and create a unique feat of winning ICC Cricket World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy and ICC T20 World Cup, Captain Dhoni needs to be little more smart with his selection strategy.
By Sorabh Aggarwal