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Rapid-fire cricket's newest drama set to unfold
by Jaideep Ghosh


Player:DL Vettori, RT Ponting, PD Collingwood, MS Dhoni
Event:ICC World Twenty20 2009

DateLine: 4th June 2009

 

Twenty20 cricket has some similarities with the launch of the first steam boat. As all and sundry surrounded the contraption, waiting for the inventors to get to work at getting it to run on water, there was the cynic, with his smirk and the stand statement: “They can’t get it to start.”

 

But start it did, and chugged merrily down the river, and the smirk evaporated. But what worth is a cynic if he gives in. So he snorts: “They can’t make it stop.”

 

No one is trying to stop Twenty20 cricket – it would be like spitting at a firestorm – but when the format began, there were people who weren’t too sure that this was going to work, and those included people in the International Cricket Council.

 

So much so that right till the first T20 World Cup in South Africa, people had seen it as a something of a picnic. Go out, have a blast, see some big hits, applaud at everything, but at the end of the day, come back to Tests and One-day Internationals.

 

Even the players were among the cynical, and India, who went on to win the inaugural trophy, saw a bunch of young and not-s-famous players come away with something the veterans had shunned, and will now miss forever – a World Cup.

 

Then came the Indian Premier League, and things weren’t the same any more.

 

Needless to say that the second edition of the ICC World Cup, coming shortly after another successful chapter of the IPL, has the ingredients of making this the premier format of the game. No one seems to mind though, since 50-over cricket seems to have outlived its utility.

 

But let’s stick to this one for now. As always, we have India in the thick of things, coming in as defending champions and the biggest draw in the business. They had gone into the first World Cup having played less than five T20 games, but by the end of it, they had won everything in sight.

 

Here too, with the team’s stars having done brilliantly for country and IPL franchisees, they look good to make it to the semi-finals by a conservative estimate.

 

But there has been some talk that Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s luck is finally beginning to wear out, and he and the side will have to work harder to make this one a success. It would be a bit silly to attribute it all to luck, but this one won’t be as easy the previous one, that is for sure.

 

So where is the challenge coming from? South Africa seem to be creeping up quietly, and all departments seems to be clicking together in a finely-oiled machine. But they have been good earlier too. It’s their mental strength that comes in for questioning time and again.

 

Australia one dismisses at one’s own risk, and Ricky Ponting and his men would be dying to get their place back in the sun, while Paul Collingwood and the Englishmen should, at least on paper, make the most of home conditions.

 

Australia will also have to deal with the goings-on surrounding Andrew Symonds, but given the number of times he has been in trouble, one can venture to presume that this comes as no surprise any more, even for the Aussies.

 

As for the rest, they are all ‘on their day’ teams.

 

Pakistan can be brilliant and ludicrous in the span of 20 overs.

 

They did brilliantly to be in the final last time, but since then, circumstances have left them with little cricket, and that is showing on the field. But this side is still talented enough to make a few waves, all they need is mental toughness.

 

Sri Lanka maybe are more consistent, though they too can collapse spectacularly.

 

New Zealand could well be a side to watch, though somehow their bowling, especially the fast stuff, could be sorely tested. But in Daniel Vettori, they have a superb spinner and a very astute captain indeed.

 

As for the rest, it’s just a test and an education, though upsets over 20 overs are more likely than in longer games, as Zimbabwe had shown Australia last time around.

 

One thing about Twenty20 is that it keeps you on your toes, be it as player, spectator or hack. Thrills and spills are dime a dozen and that is what makes this such a success.

 

So sit back and enjoy. It is not always that the best team wins, but as long as we have fun, does it matter?


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