Big boys brace up for big bash in Bangladesh

Cricket World T20

Big boys brace up for big bash in Bangladesh

With the scramble for the two qualification slots nearing its business end, the focus shifts back on the big guns and there can be no better way of kicking things off than an India-Pakistan encounter, the first of the Super 10 matches in the World T20 to be played here at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium on Friday.

In what promises to be noisy evening with the support for both teams likely to be almost equal, neither team would want to be at the wrong end of the result. The arch-rivals, however, at the same time would be happy to get this pressure-match out of their way early in the competition. India and Pakistan, the champions in the first and second editions respectively, have a stiff challenge of progressing to the semifinals from Group 2 which also has Australia and defending champions West Indies. These four will be joined by a qualifier from Group B.

It’s hard to pick the two teams that will advance to the last-four stage as each one of them has proven credentials. Given their build up to the event, India may appear the least formidable of the four contenders but it’s a format where form books count for little. Unlike in the past three editions, where the tournament formats too had a role in India’s debacles, the latest one is closest to the inaugural event when 12 teams were divided into two equal groups. Each team had ample opportunity to make its case before the semifinals.

The two-stage format in England, the West Indies and Sri Lanka didn’t always favour the more consistent sides. For example, India had won four of the five matches they played over two stages in Sri Lanka and yet they failed to make the semis while eventual champions West Indies reeled in just two wins to earn a last-four berth. The change in format, however, doesn’t guarantee a good performance though. While India have all the right ingredients of a good T20 side, they have somehow struggled to find a winning formula. MS Dhoni will hope their 20-run win in the practice game against England on Wednesday will bring in a change in fortunes.
  Australia, perhaps the most dominant side in the previous two tournaments, too have imploded at crucial junctures. They looked unbeatable in the West Indies in 2010 but one bad performance in the final put paid to their aspirations. In Sri Lanka, sweeping each opponents off their feet, the Australians again were formidable until they ran into a tartar called Chris Gayle whose 41-ball 75 blew them away.

The George Bailey-led side will, however, start as one of the strong contenders this time too, and if anything, they only look more daunting after their recent run of success in all three versions of the game. With World T20 being the only ICC title not to adorn their cabinet, Australia would believe this is their time.

Pakistan remain the dangerous customers that they always have been. Crowd support and familiar conditions give them a distinct edge. The West Indies, with an army of made-for-T20 players, are strongly tipped to retain the title and their recent T20 performances attest the fact that they are at home in this format.
 While Group 2 has three champions, Group 1 has a one former champion in England. Always the underwhelming favourites among the top teams in any ICC event, England too can boast of a World T20 title. Their win is also a testimony to the fact that any team can fancy its chances in this format. New Zealand has some of the finest T20 players who are capable of guiding the team all the way while South Africa will want to end their long drought of a major victory.

Having fallen short on many an occasion, the Proteas will hope that Bangladesh, where they won the ICC Knockout event way back in 1998, is the place to end their chokers’ tag.Last but not the least, Sri Lanka, who have lost two finals in the last three meets, will be keen to reverse the trend. That they successfully dethroned Pakistan as Asia Cup champions less than two weeks ago will have done no harm to their confidence.

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