The Indian cricket team needs to watch out for an unfamiliar enemy in the ICC T-20 World Cup- complacency. They have never before entered a World Cup as clear favourites. Not even in 1987 when they were the defending champions and ultimately lost in the Semis at Mumbai to the Englishmen. In fact the Indian team looks much stronger than in 2007 when they emerged champions, but had some modest players in their ranks.
On paper they look awesome this time, with a batting line up that reads- Sehwag, Gambhir, Raina, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Rohit, Pathan and Pathan. No other team, not even Australia or South Africa, can boast of such batting firepower in this World Cup. Each of India’s top eight batsmen has the ability to clear the field by some distance, the only question being who hits the longest sixes. In that department, Yusuf Pathan is probably the winner, closely followed by Sehwag, Raina, Dhoni and Yuvraj, in no particular order!
India’s bowling looks robust too, with RP Singh having grabbed the Purple Cap in the just concluded IPL, and also having bowled the maximum number of dot-balls in that tournament. Irfan Pathan bowled superbly in the IPL too, and picked up a bagful of wickets, though he tended to go for quite a few runs in his opening spells. Ishant Sharma bowled well in the warm-up game against the Kiwis and though India lost that match by 9 runs, they can take heart from the form of their spinners too- Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha were quite impressive. If Zaheer Khan is fit, then India’s bowling would test the very best. They also have an embarrassment of riches in the batting-allrounders department, with Yusuf Pathan, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag and Rohit Sharma all proving to be capable spinners of the ball.
Their fielding looks impressive too, with only a few of the bowlers being somewhat slow in the outfield. Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina are absolute dynamite in the inner circle. During practice the Indians need to focus on getting a few direct hits for these often result in run-outs that could clinch some close matches. India’s running between the wickets has never looked as energetic as is does with this young team.
While the Indians garnered invaluable practice during the IPL, top players of teams like New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Africa benefitted immensely from the event too. In fact the South Africans are second-favourites given their all round skills and the form that their batsmen are in. Their fielding is still the world’s best, even though the Kiwis and the Aussies run them close in that area. The experience of Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Graeme Smith coupled with the firepower of Dale Steyn and Albie Morkel makes them a formidable line up.
The Australians are probably next in the list of likely winners. They can never be counted
out as potential champions and have the ability to raise their game in World Cups. Ricky
Ponting still has a point or two to prove in this format, while Michael Hussey and his
brother David, along with Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds lend them some real
class in the middle order. Their retired openers Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, the
two top run-getters of IPL 2009, would have been invaluable assets to them had they
been coaxed into playing this event!
Sri Lanka are next, and have in Mahela Jayawardene, skipper Kumar Sangakarra and old
war horse Sanath Jayasuriya, three of the most attacking batsmen in world cricket. The
bowling looks a little suspect though, despite the presence of the slingy Lasith Malinga
and the ever potent Muthiah Muralidharan in their ranks. They have to watch out against
giving away too many runs off their lesser bowlers.
New Zealand could well be the dark horse of ICC World T-20 2009. They have always
been under estimated by opposing teams and the media at major cricketing events. In
Ross Taylor they have one of the finest batsmen in the world today. Brendon McCullum,
Jesse Ryder and Jacob Oram add some serious hitting-power to their batting. Daniel
Vettori is not only a wily spinner but also a cool captain in the Anil Kumble mould.
Conditions in England are similar to their home conditions and they will come out with
all guns blazing, for sure.
England, Pakistan and the West Indies are still major cricketing powers. But all three
have a lot to prove in the shortest format of the game, on current form. Last time’s losing
finalists Pakistan are inhibited by lack of international exposure, of late. Their bowling
looks reasonably sharp but their stroke-players are suspect when the going gets really
England would enjoy home advantage but are missing Freddie Flintoff. Skipper Paul
Collingwood remains their best player in this format along with the mercurial Kevin
Pietersen. Their bowling is their strength, with some good seamers in the side, led by
The Windies are looking below par too, as they go into the tournament. Despite having come off a Test and ODI series in England recently, and having an edge over other visiting teams in terms of the need to acclimatize to conditions, they would need some remarkable performances from Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo to be perceived as serious contenders for the title.
It is extremely difficult to predict anything that has to do with T-20 cricket. The very nature of the game is such that one big over can change the fortunes of teams either way.
Nevertheless, the T-20 World Cup in England would be won by the team that combines a large amount of flair with confident execution of plans, and also holds its catches.
Some nail-biting action is in store for sure. Watch this space!