Twenty20’s (T20) are not unlike Tests, except that games are played at a much more frenetic pace, with much shorter time to think, even much less time to execute. However, that old competition adage still exists: “The race is not for the swiftest, but for those who will survive the longest!” Already, cricket luminaries, like “Dada”, India’s most successful captain, Sourav Ganguly, with vast experiences in T20 cricket – 77 games for Kolkata Knight Riders, Lancashire CCC and Pune Warriors - have called West Indies ‘favourites’ to win the upcoming International Cricket Council (ICC) World T20. But could that become reality? Last week, massive favourite at London Paralympics, South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, “Blade Runner”, lost the T-44 200 metres race when he was odds-on to win. Indeed, in one heat, he established a new world record (21.30 seconds). Yet, when it counted most, in the final, he did not win. Ironically, “Blade Runner” accused eventual winner, Brazil’s Alan Oliveira, of using incorrect or illegal, blades that supposedly made Oliveira taller than he should have been, allowing him to better elongate strides to win. The jury is still out as to the correctness of Oliveira’s blades but Oscar lost!
Despite useless noises over the last decades, West Indies has won only three world limited-overs championships since one-day competition was introduced back in 1970/1. With easily the best team in that first competition, West Indies won 1975’s ICC inaugural 50-overs World Cup. With an even better team we repeated, winning 1979’s ICC’s 50-over World Cup too. For 1983, however, as even more overwhelming favourites than the previous two competitions, expected by all opponents to ‘three-peat’, West Indies faltered badly at the final fence, to unfavoured India. Cricket games are not played on paper. Favourites do not always win! West Indies last international limited overs success was September 25, 2004, such ancient days now. Our representatives, highly unfancied and not expected to progress, beat England, that competition’s favourites, thus winning 2004’s ICC 50-overs Champions Trophy; another favourite team upset.
For the World T20 event, on paper, with extensive contracts and experiences, West Indies sounds like a good unit but it should be noted that every cricket game is played in the head and on the field. Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, Samuel Badree, Darren Bravo, Johnson Charles, Fidel Edwards, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons and Dwayne Smith seem a good combination of youth and experience. Can they win?\
Yes, West Indies certainly can win in Sri Lanka. Will they win is a very different matter all together! The hosts will be a tremendous handful. Unlike West Indies, who failed to take advantage of known home conditions in ICC 2007 50-over World Cup, and ICC WT-20 2010 in the Caribbean, failing to even get to semifinals in either, expect the “Tigers” to shine at home. Captain Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews, Tilikeratene Dilshan, allrounder extraordinaire Kumar Sangakkara, with returning mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, would be looking to avenge 2010. Sri Lanka was one semifinalist in 2010’s tournament. The others were England, the eventual winner, Australia, the favourites back then, whom England surprisingly beat in the final and that other world cricket enigma, Pakistan. Immediately, any of these four can also win this time around. England’s 2010 captain Paul Collingwood has retired from international cricket while Kevin Pietersen’s present impasse with England & Wales Cricket Board will take more than just words to correct. However, England is defending champion. Most of that 2010 winning team is still intact. Now led by tenacious bowling allrounder Stuart Broad, England ranked No 2 by ICC, would take some beating. Australia is so competitive at sports that its teams are always threats, even if playing beach hop-scotch! Venerable wicket-keeper Brad Haddin has gone but another such veteran Michael Hussey, still remains.
Returning 2010 captain Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, David Warner and David Hussey certainly augment this team well. Australia is ranked No 9 by ICC on paper but cricket is played on a park. If Pakistan was to play with cohesion, normal ability and mercurial nature, they could win regularly. No-one expected that 1992 ICC World Cup win, even beating New Zealand in its own backyard, Auckland. Present captain Mohammad Hafeez, Abdur Razzaq and Shahid Afridi will do their best to repeat here. South Africa holds the top spot in the T20 ranking. They deserve it but captain AB De Villers, indomitable Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, almost indestructible Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and his young understudy, Wayne Parnell would certainly have knowledge of only one other thing remaining on their minds. Ranking is one thing; winning a world event is quite another too. Having never won any ICC world competitions while being favourites to win a few, the Proteas will be shooting to correct that now. Mahendra Singh (MS) Dhoni’s India is another team that could surprise here. Almost all grizzled veterans, Gautam Gambhir, Harbajan Singh, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan will want to end their careers in glory! No 5 rated West Indies can win this year’s edition but will have to survive to beat all other teams! Enjoy!