After IPL riches, national pride at stake in T20 World Cup

June 4th, 2009 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Virender Sehwag London, June 4 (IANS) After filling their pockets with Indian Premier League (IPL) riches, international cricket stars are now all set to battle it out for the national pride at the Twenty20 World Cup, starting here Friday.
The inaugural World Championship in South Africa in 2007 was a runaway success with its compact and compelling nature and if it repeats the success again then it will prove that Twenty20 is here to stay and will be the best format to make the game global.

The IPL’s success in South Africa has spurred the commercial growth of the Twenty20 so much that Twenty20 World Cup organisers say tickets are nearly sold out for everything beyond the first phase and that overall sales are set to top 80 percent of the capacity.

As the tournament proceeds, their might be shortages of tickets but one can be sure that there won’t be any shortage of attention over the next three weeks on dugouts, dramas, DJs and dancing girls.

The 16-day tournament, staged at the Lord’s, The Oval and the Kennington Oval, will be telecast in more countries than ever before, including unexplored markets like Russia.

The Indian team who entered as underdogs in the inaugural edition created a mass hysteria following their sensational title win, making the shortest version an instant hit in the sport’s commercial hub.

Since then India have achieved phenomenal success in all forms of the game.

India, hardened for the tournament with the IPL, are widely tipped to retain the title.

The uncertain nature of the format though will not allow India to take it easy at the league stage where they are placed alongside minnows Bangladesh and Ireland in Group A.

Explosive openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir can provide fireworks at top, while Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni form a strong middle order. With Pathan bothers to follow, India certainly have one of the most formidable batting line-ups.

Ishant Sharma, R.P. Singh and Irfan Pathan will shoulder the bowling responsibility in case Zaheer Khan is not fit to play. The spin department will be handled by experienced Harbhajan Singh while left-armer Pragyan Ojha showed promise in IPL.

Zaheer and Virender Sehwag’s injury might be a cause of concern for Dhoni, but he does have the wherewithals to make-up for their absence.

Rohit, who shone both with the bat and ball for IPL champions Deccan Chargers, was the key man in India’s crushing victory against Pakistan in the warm-up match and that too, as an opener. He is the player to watch out for.

Australia, despite their mixed fortunes in Twenty20, will pose serious questions to their opponents.

By their own admission, the Aussies didn’t take the game seriously and it showed in the 2007 World Championship, when minnows Zimbabwe shocked them by five-wickets.

This time the Australians are well equipped. Andrew Symonds is in explosive form and played a match winning knock as Deccan Chargers annexed the IPL. David Hussey, David Warner and all-rounder Shane Watson’s exploits in Twenty20 are well known.

But Australia are clubbed with Sri Lanka and West Indies in Group C, the group of death. Both Sri Lanka and West Indies have talents loaded in their side to make life miserable for the Australians.

Sri Lanka have veteran Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara leading the pack. Lasith Malinga with his slinging action is now among the best bowlers at the death while spin duo Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis could dry up the runs.

West Indies are capable of psringing a surprise. Their captain Chris Gayle said he prefers Twenty20 to Test cricket and the World Cup will be the perfect stage for him. He performed well for the beleaguered Kolkata Knight Riders while fast bowlers Fidel Edwards was lethal with his raw pace during his stint with Deccan Chargers.

Stakes will run high for hosts England, who will rub shoulders with Pakistan, who finished runners-up to India, and the Netherlands in Group B.

England have fallen behind after discovering the Twenty20 format. They will be without the talismanic all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, but will have the home advantage in their favour.

In Paul Collingwood, England have a poised leader. All eyes will be on Kevin Pietersen, who admitted he is still learning Twenty20 tricks. Ravi Bopara looks in good touch while pace pair Stuart Broad and James Anderson are best suited to the conditions.

Pakistan, who have been outcast from world cricket, will be hungry for success.

Due to the volatile security situation at home, teams have refused to tour Pakistan, robbing the country of international cricket. With flamboyant batsman Younis Khan in charge of the team, Pakistan has proven match-winners in all-rounders Shahid Afridi and Sohail Tanveer.

If there is one team who has the fire power in all the three departments of the game, it has to be South Africa, who are in Group D with New Zealand and Scotland.

With all their players in good form in IPL, South Africa is one of the top contenders for the crown.

Skipper Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs, AB de Villiers, Jean Paul Duminy and Albie Morkel form South Africa’s strong batting line-up, while fiery Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Yusuf Abdulla share the bowling burden.

New Zealand have enough potential but lack consistency. Skipper Daniel Vettori is the best left-arm spinner in the world while big hitters like Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor make them a strong side but it will take more than just an odd upset from Vettori and his boys to win the tournament.

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