By the time you read this, West Indies will have played its first match of this 2012 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 (T20), but the competition overall, has been something of a damp squib so far, all games going to expectations. New Zealand’s Brendan McCullum did liven up things a bit, but much more is needed to really energise this. Today, two key match-ups will tell, more or less, if India is here for real when they meet England, and exactly which Pakistan team turned up to the competition, when they meet New Zealand. I find it very strange and difficult to understand, any scheduling which allowed teams like Zimbabwe to be fully eliminated after losing its first two matches, even before teams like West Indies or Pakistan even play their first matches. Why call it World Championship if ICC does not want all teams to enjoy it fully? I also know that some teams like West Indies, Sri Lanka, India and South Africa, perhaps Pakistan, England and Australia, have marquee players—Chris Gayle, Mahela Jayawardene, Virat Kohli, Jacques Kallis—who everyone wants to see but minion teams deserve better acknowledgements.
National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) in the USA and English Premier League (EPL), all have it just about right. Of course San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Manchester United win most times, but they have to play and beat, the lesser endowed teams too. Yesterday, along with West Indies first match against Australia, Sri Lanka also played South Africa, with only positions in Super Eights at stake. In a competition such as this, with so few teams, especially with shortness of games, every match played should be ultra important, not just general “gimme’s!” Overall, Zimbabwe was truly disappointing, allowing Sri Lanka 182 from 20 overs was a quite poor effort, Zimbabwe then only mustering 100, mesmerised and bamboozled by Ajantha Mendis’ phenomenal spell—six overs, two maidens, eight runs and six wickets. Totally incredible! Considering that he was coming off a long lay-off after injury, Mendis looked as menacing as a cobra. He had confused better batsmen as when Sri Lanka last toured West Indies, memorably teasing West Indies captain Darren Sammy into playing three different strokes at once, only to be bowled anyway.
Sri Lanka, New Zealand and South Africa look like form teams. India did beat Afghanistan but it was not easy. Had Afghanistan taken its chances to catch Suresh Raina and Kohli, India may not have made that 159-5, to which Afghanistan capitulated badly to India’s spin, especially Yuvraj Singh’s 3-24 (4 overs). South Africa versus Zimbabwe was a mis-match if ever there was one. Already demoralised from its first loss, Zimbabwe was decimated by Proteas’ big, faster bowlers, especially on a very bowler-friendly, juicy pitch. The score of 93-8 was diabolically worse from Zimbabwe, courtesy of miraculous allrounder Kallis. What keeps Kallis going so strong should be bottled and sold worldwide. His great enthusiasm and purpose are magnificently enhanced by always top-notch performances, this time 4-15 (4 overs). South Africa barely broke sweat for that required 94, getting there without any loss from 12.4 overs. Great stuff!
In the tournament’s second match, Australia versus Ireland, the Aussies gave indications that they would fight right down to the last. Shane Watson might not be as considered as Kallis but he is certainly worth his weight in runs and wickets—3-26 (4 overs) and 51 run out against Ireland—showing his prowess.
McCullum’s dynamic competition’s first century (123) from 58 deliveries, highest international T20 score to date, second fastest overall in T20 International cricket, came as New Zealand demolished hapless Bangladesh by 59 runs, his 100 coming in 51 deliveries. Tellingly, he holds the record for the third fastest T20 century too. England got off brilliantly, underrated Luke Wright annihilating Afghanistan for 99 not out. The Afghans were effectively sent home, embarrassed and shellacked by magnificent all-around English bowling, all out for 80, showing that it may have taken too much out of them against India, for the Afghanistanis to bounce back. There has been so much noise about West Indies’ favourite status. That is as maybe but they still have to go out there and win. Obviously, playing Australia is always tough while playing Ireland, coached by former West Indies cricketer Phil Simmons, tomorrow will also bring some home truths. At least, Australia did beat Ireland handsomely, with 4.5 overs to spare, so the Aussies would go to the Super Eights, even if they will have lost to West Indies yesterday. Ireland has been dealt a tough hand. New Zealand’s McCullum has set the tone, followed by England’s Wright. West Indies’ Gayle, Dwayne Smith and Darren Sammy, along with Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal, must now follow suit. This week’s Super Eights match-ups should bring this competition up to a boil, maybe even forcing the players to use that expansive latent heat of vapourisation to convert boiling point to actual real steam. Surely the competition needs some impetus to drive it along. So far, it has been quite boring. Enjoy!