T20 fever grips Sri Lanka

HARARE - SRI Lankan cricket lovers will be having more than their fair share of big hits, loud music and provocative dancing girls with back-to-back T20 tournaments with the recently concluded Sri Lankan Premier League and the upcoming ICC World Twenty20.  

Although T20 cricket is undoubtedly the most unpredictable form of the three versions, the lesser sides are still going to find qualification to the next round extremely tough due to the fact that there are only three teams in a group with the top two qualifying for the following round.

Be that as it may, all cricketing eyes will still be glued to television sets and websites around the world as they follow their countries fortunes or miss fortunes when the event gets underway on September 18.

Group A will see a most interesting tussle between the defending holders of the tournament, England, and the inaugural champions India who lifted the trophy on September 24, 2007, in front of 30 000 fanatical  supporters at the Wonderers Stadium in Johannesburg when they beat arch rivals Pakistan by three runs.

Although T20 cricket was popular amongst the crowds in England back in 2007, England were still getting to grips with the game and didn’t do as well as they would have hoped.

But when Andy Flower took over as full time coach in 2008, England not only enhanced their reputation as a formidable Test team, but their form in both one-day international as well as T20 cricket improved dramatically.

So it came as no real surprise when they won the T20 World Cup in 2010.

Another advantage the defending champions have is that a number of players who were in the winning team back in 2010 will once again have a huge part to play when they look to defend their title.

Players such as Stuart Broad, who now captains the side as well as Michael Lumb, Craig Kieswetter, Eoin Morgan, Luke Wright, Tim Bresnnan, Graeme Swann and Ravi Bopara were all part of the World Cup winning side which means that India and Afghanistan will have to dig deep to upset a well-oiled machine, though you would fancy India to progress through to the next round at the expense of a talented but inexperienced Afghanistan.

Group B sees another age old rivalry renewed when Australia and the West Indies clash in what will hopefully be a closely contested encounter with the welcome return of Chris Gayle, who will bolster the West Indian batting considerably.

Ireland, who are also in Group B, will probably be the team packing their bags but not without a monumental fight.

Many people are of the opinion that Ireland are a better team than Zimbabwe and will want to prove that by causing an upset against either Australia or the West Indies.

Zimbabwe are placed alongside South Africa and hosts Sri Lanka in Group C and this group may very well be the toughest group for the simple reason that Sri Lanka will have a huge advantage of having their home crowd behind them as well as a very good and well-grounded side.

Zimbabwe will still be remembering the emphatic nine wicket thrashing they gave South Africa earlier on in the year in the unofficial Pran RFL triangular series but, and there is a huge BUT, four of South Africa’s most influential players, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and captain AB de Villiers were all rested for that particular series and will be back to seek revenge.

It is interesting to note that former South Africa captain Kepler Wessles has already said that “It would be hard to imagine Zimbabwe progressing to the next round.”

Negative comments like these shouldn’t affect Zimbabwe in the least. All they need to do is to focus on creating a good team spirit as well as the usual necessities when preparing for such an important event.

Group D will see New Zealand, Pakistan and Bangladesh fighting it out and given New Zealand’s poor form of late, Bangladesh will feel that they have a more than realistic chance of qualifying for the Super Eight.

But New Zealand have a knack of springing a few surprises of their own in important tournaments such as this, which leaves this group wide open.

What will be very interesting to see is how the pitches will behave.

Traditional Sri Lankan pitches assist the spinners but the recently concluded Sri Lankan Premier League saw the fast bowlers have a great deal of success.

This was due to the fact that many of the matches were played under lights which seemed to assist swing bowling in particular.

The players may very well have to deal with distractions off the field such as the persistent and somewhat annoying sound of blaring horns and beating drums which is part of the Sri Lankan cricketing culture.

All in all, the players of all the participating countries will have to be prepared for a good Sri Lankan party as they will undoubtedly bring joy to thousands of fans in the stadiums, as well as many millions of viewers around the globe.

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