The Captains of the squads in the ICC World Twenty/20 Cup.
The 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Tournament is underway!
The craze that has captured the eye of the world with its exciting play and go for broke shot-making has transformed the game from a snooze fest into a match where you can't even miss a single moment. You could blink and won't know when the ball got launched into the upper decks for a Six, nor can you say when the batsman's stumps are going to start flying in different directions as he tries to go for too much.
Athletes and celebrities alike are also fans of the newest version of Cricket as evidenced by the surge in popularity of the IPL. The ICC World Twenty/20 tournament is the premiere event to enjoy the spectacle and should not be missed!
For the next three weeks in Sri Lanka, between September 18th-October 7th, there will be twelve countries vying to stake the claim as the very best in the world.
The twelve teams will be separated into four groups, play a round robin format, then advance onto the quarterfinal round robin, on to a semifinal sudden death, and if they are lucky enough to survive they play one match where everything is on the line to crown the champion.
We will look at each team, make bold predictions, and tell you what you need to know so you can get the most out of the tournament as you watch the saga unfold.
India celebrating its narrow victory over Afghanistan.
Group A consists of India, England and Afghanistan.
Considering only two of the three teams from each group can advance to the round robin quarterfinal stage, it seems pretty clear that the defending World Cup champion India and defending Twenty20 champion England should be the ones to cross over.
However, the beauty of sports is that nothing is ever really guaranteed.
In the first match, India narrowly escaped a scare from Afghanistan, as the latter had four overs to go chasing 34 runs, before collapsing and losing by 23 runs with three balls to spare. Several dropped catches surely did the Afghan team no favors but strong performances by Nabi, Sadiq and Mangal should give them confidence as they head into their match against England.
Boasting arguably the strongest batting lineup in the world, India is a strong favorite to capture the trophy this year.
In a game where strong batting is the biggest key to slogging one's way to victory, a slew of talented players named Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj, Raina, and Dhoni can carry the team with even fourth graders bowling on the Sri Lankan pitches they have become accustomed to.
The absence of batsman Kevin Pietersen will play a big factor if they do not go deep in the tournament. England has never fared too well on Sri Lankan grounds and captain Stuart Broad will have to make sure his bowlers' work on the ball to get some kind of movement.
If the seamers bowl straight on, it will be hard for the England pacers to do much damage.
The war-torn nation will have to play their absolute best and make no mental mistakes out on the field. The team has talented players in centurions like Mohammad Shahzad and Karim Sadiq and leg spinner Samiullah Shenwari to create a stir and even an upset.
Watson watching his ball cross the boundry against Ireland.
Group B contains Australia, Ireland and the West Indies.
The first match of the group has been played and Australia soundly defeated Ireland by almost five full overs and seven wickets in hand. Ireland needs to beat the West Indies and obtain a higher run rate if it wants any chance of advancement.
With the talented O'Brien brothers, Kevin and Niall, at the helm, Ireland has a fighting chance against almost anyone. However, in matches when they do not show up, it's slim pickings.
While they may not be the alpha-team they were 10 years ago, don't let their low ranking fool you. This team is still capable of rolling with the punches with their batsmen.
David Warner is a great showman who has proved he can hang with the best, becoming only the third player to notch 1,000 runs in T20 internationals. He will need to pick up the slack when players like David Hussey are forced to watch from the sidelines.
Interestingly enough, like the Irish, the Aussies have a brother tandem of their own with Mike Hussey leading the charge alongside Warner's fellow opener Shane Watson, who blasted off multiple sixes en route to a casual 51 off 30 balls.
While they have yet to create an impact in the Twenty20 game, their squad offers Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine and their skills promise so much.
Chris Gayle is someone that needs no introduction unless you've been living under a rock, and combined with Kieran Pollard, the two can easily blast off fireworks with their willows. Sunil Narine has thrust himself into the international spotlight as a world-class spinner who has tremendous control of his line and length that can seemingly suffocate batsmen till they make a mistake.
In a format where bastmen routinely make rash decisions, his ability could prove to be vital for the success for the collection of islands.
Sri Lankan Captain, Mahela Jayawardene, looks to hoist the cup.
Group C is comprised of Sri Lanka, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
In the first match of their group, Sri Lanka tore Zimbabwe to shreds. Led by the ICC Cricketer of the year, Kumar Sangakkara's 44 runs, the Lankans put up a mighty score of 183.
The Zimbabwe team never got anything going when they took the crease as Ajantha Mendis took a record six wickets for only eight runs. Against one of the tournament favorites, South Africa, Zimbabwe will need to look at themselves and play for respect.
In every sport, there are champions and there are bridesmaids. Sri Lanka, as of late, has been tagged with the unfortunate label
After winning the 1996 World Cup, they have finished runner-up in the 2007 and 2011 World Cup as well as coming in second place at the 2010 Twenty/20 tournament. After being defeated in the last three major tournaments, they are hungry to break through.
Even though Muttiah is no longer on the team, the hometown Lankans have the leading IPL wicket taker in fast bowler Lasith Malinga, the aforementioned spinner Ajantha Mendis and gifted all-arounders Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera.
These players provide great compliments to the sound batting of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, two of the greatest to ever play the game. Along with teammate Tilkartane Dilshan, the team looks to do damage on their home turf.
The favorites of many to win the tournament will be looking to knock Zimbabwe out.
Hashim Alma, AB DeVilliers and the legendary Jacques Kallis will be anchoring the team while long-time international player Dale Steyn will be spearheading the pace department, complemented by the quality bowling from spinners Robin Petersen and Johan Botha.
The team has been on fire lately and it seems they are the perennial favorites in every format of the game. With players like Richard Levi, record holder for the fastest century in T20, it's no wonder why.
The cellar dwellers of the group, it is hard to see Zimbabwe come back and advance past this stage. Their best chance is to turn back the clock and snag the Flower brothers and Heath Streak.
Since technology has not yet advanced that far, the team will have to rely on fielding perfectly while riding on the spinning arms of Graeme Cremer, Prosper Utseya and the batting of their captain Brendan Taylor.
Pakistan looks locked and loaded for a big run.
Group D has the remaining three teams: Pakistan, New Zealand and Bangladesh.
They have been displaying very good chemistry in the past season, and although they have been a historically mercurial side, they remain endowed with as much breath-taking ability as ever.
With a strong history of consistently doing well at the tournament and having won the cup in 2009, they will be confident heading into the games. They have a legitimate line-up with Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez answering the opening bell, while the youngster Umar Akmal and veterans Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq help the balance. The team is also laden with pacer Umar Gul and spinner Saeed Ajmal—the two top leading wicket takers in T20 history.
The Kiwis will be glad to see Daniel Vettori and his veteran presence come back to the field after his groin injury. Ross Taylor's team will be leaning heavily on Brendon McCullum to work wonders with his stick and and hope that teammates Jacob Oram and Martin Guptill will fill in their roles as best they can.
The resident giant killers are capable of beating anyone on their day. Having already vanquished India and Sri Lanka this year in one-day formats, their confidence will be brimming.
Having swatted away teams like Ireland this season like pesky flies, this tournament could hold another Bangladesh upset in the cards with Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan in the cockpit.
Chris Gayle will lead his team into the semifinals.
The top of each group advance. Based on the strength of each team, it seems as if the likely scenario will be:
Group A - India and England
Group B - West Indies and Australia
Group C - Sri Lanka and South Africa
Group D - Pakistan and New Zealand
The eight teams will then be broken down into two groups of four (Group E: A1, B2, C1, D2, and Group F: A2, B1, C2, D1) based on points attained in the round robin format.
Groups E and F
With India's experience on the turf and England's relative uneasiness on it, India will be the A1.
Australia is ranked near the bottom of the rankings, and coupled with the attacking nature and evident success of various West Indians in the IPL format, Australia is the safe bet to be the B2.
Sri Lanka, simply as the home team who has plenty of experience in their own Premiere League in addition to the IPL. They looked mighty against Zimbabwe and will be the C1.
Pakistan is the strongest of the three teams in Group D, and although they can lose to anyone, it will not be in the round robin stage. So the Black Caps will have to settle for D2.
From Group E, Sri Lanka and India will advance from this stage, breezing by Pakistan and Australia.
From Group F, South Africa and the West Indies will proceed into the knockout semi finals as well, besting England and New Zealand.
If India wants to win, they can't afford to have any lapses in their batting.
The semifinals is where the tournament will get really exciting. No more room for any errors as this is now sudden death.
The semifinals are structured in a way that will have the E1 face the F2 while the F1 takes on the E2.
From our previous slide, we deduced that India and Sri Lanka are strong contenders to represent the E group while South Africa and the West Indies will be the squads from the F zone.
The entire tournament is completely wide open. One of the more even-keeled tournaments in recent memory and nearly every team can make their case as a favorite.
India and their batting will carry them to the E1 seed, but their lack of bowling can be exposed by any of the top teams. They are likely candidates to fall before the championship round. After a near upset by Afghanistan it's hard to trust the "Bleed Blue" boys against world class opponents on a consistent basis.
South Africa has a history of blowing big matches but this will be the year they put their demons to rest and squeak by to advance to the Finals.
The Sri Lankans will put up a decent fight but the West Indians relying on meteoric scoring from men like Gayle, Pollard, and Bravo can out slug the more consistent Sri Lankans who will rely heavily on their home crowd to carry them as far as they can. Narine will also trouble every Lankan batsmen not named Jayawardene or Sangakkara.
The South Africans will be all smiles.
It all boils down to this.
The chips are down and it's time to put up or shut up.
120 balls each to see who can score the most runs.
South Africa will break through and win the ICC Twenty20 World Cup over the West Indies.