ICC T20 World Cup 2016 – Team PreviewsGautam Lalotra |
The buzz and excitement around the upcoming ICC World T-20 has put the cricket crazy fans into frenzy. The cricketing powerhouses would lock horns against each other in a battle for reigning supreme as the World Champions. With most of the high profile money spinning leagues over, the club comrades have got back to gel with their fellow countrymen, don the nation colours and represent their national teams for seeking honour and glory for their nation.
With the tournament being hosted in India, the fans and the cricket community at large couldn’t ask for a better setting and atmosphere as cricket fans across the sub-continent are passionate about the success of their national teams. The sheer emotions, passion and fervor generated among die-hard fans by the success of their national sides in the subcontinent could potentially draw comparisons with that of the soccer fans in Europe and Latin America.
Going into world cups, all the fans and critics use their cricketing acumen to pick up their pre-tournament favourites to win the title. But with T-20 which is a very unpredictable format, one can’t be sure of which team would go the distance as any side can pull off an upset when they get their act together. None of the test playing nations would take the qualifiers lightly as one slip and the team could be sent back packing home. The past roll of honours clearly states that no international team has gone to defend their World T-20 title, hence consistency in winning the tournament over a period of time is really hard.
WICKETS AND PLAYING CONDITIONS
So what does the upcoming World Cup have in store for the fans. Most of the wickets would typically play out as a belter of a track offering ideal conditions for batsmen to thrive and score loads of runs. The tracks would be loosely bound with lots of cracks opening up on the pitch to aid the spinners and one would expect lightning quick outfields for the ball to caress through in no time. Some of the venues like Dharamshala, Mohali and Bangalore would have the pace and bounce to assist the seamers. Spin would play an important role and one can clearly see that with all the sides stacking up their squads with quality spinners. Most of the teams won’t be alien to subcontinent conditions as most of the international cricketers have a rich experience of playing in the IPL.
TEAMS AND GROUPS
The 10 test playing nations along with the associate nations make up the 16 teams entering the tournament to battle for glory and honour for the coveted title. The top eight teams are already into Round Two and await the group winners from Round 1, which would witness eight nations; Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Oman in the fray. The so called minnows coming through the qualifiers can’t be taken lightly, as they have the arsenal to cause major upsets in the course of the tournament.
The Test teams have been divided into two groups of 5 teams. Going by the recent track record and squads picked up for the showpiece event, both the groups look quite competitive and evenly matched. Going by their good spell of success in recent times and playing on their home turf, India would surely start as one of the favourites to win the title. Meanwhile in my opinion considering the playing conditions and the resources at their disposal, the Aussies, Proteas and West Indies have a very good chance of reaching the finals and even lifting the trophy.
In Group 1, South Africa and West Indies would be hot favourites to reach the knockouts stages, with Sri Lanka being the dark horses. In Group 2, I would put my money on India and Australia to make it to the semi-finals whereas New Zealand would be my dark horse. Meanwhile England, Pakistan and Bangladesh would be the party spoilers if they get into form during the course of the event.
The team uniform creates a sense of patriotism and pride among the fans. Blue and Green seem to be the most favoured team jerseys with the Indians, Sri Lankans, Afghanistan and Scotland donning a shade of blue. Meanwhile South Africa, Pakistan, Ireland and the Bangla Tigers would be in their usual shades of green. Beware of the bright red worn by the English and the Zimbabweans. The Windies add that little bit of spunk through their Maroon uniform. Meanwhile the Kiwis known as the Black Caps would play in their customary Black attire. The Aussies would add a bit yellow to the showpiece event with their uniform.
So let’s have a look at the composition, strengths and weaknesses of each of the sides based on their squads selected for the World Cup
The Indians seems to have the most potent batting line-up in the tournament. Men in Blue would look for the flamboyant Rohit Sharma and Shikar Dhawan to provide them with the acceleration at the start. Meanwhile the ever consistent Virat Kohli would be the mainstay of their batting around whom the others shall bat.Yuvraj Singh is a potential matchwinner if he gets his form going. India’s best T-20 player Suresh Raina and their cool and calm skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have their task cut out to finish the innings with some lusty hitting down the order.
The Indian spin attack would be spearheaded by their ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Ashwin would be provided ample support by the experienced offie Harbhajan Singh. Ravinder Jadeja has turned out to be quite the wicket taking bowler so his bowling form shall be crucial for the team’s success. Besides them they have the services of Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma ,who all can chip in with their slow arm bowling. The pace attack has a good variety of pace and swing. The Indians pace attack with Jasprit Bumrah and Muhammad Shami in the ranks could be very effective with their yorkers in the death overs. Meanwhile Ashish Nehra’s experience and proven success in the T-20 format should come in handy in the course of India’s campaign.
The Indians have roped in youngsters like Hardik Pandya and Pawan Negi who would be keen to showcase their skill at the World stage.
Notable Absentees: Umesh Yadav, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar
Best Results: Champions (2007), Finalist (2014)
The Aussies have an explosive batting line-up which bats deep courtesy some valuable all-rounder’s. With their inform openers Aaron Finch and pocket dynamite David Warner, the innings would surely be provided with the ideal opening salvo. The middle order looks formidable with match winners in the experienced Shane Watson and the unorthodox yet effective Steven Smith. They have a destructive lower order with hard hitting Mitchell Marsh and the destructive yet entertaining stroke player Glen Maxwell who could change the game in a blink of an eye. The Aussies though lacking a frontline spinner would rely on Steven Smith and Glen Maxwell to break partnerships in the middle overs. Adam Zampa picked on account of his Big Bash heroics looks to be an exciting leg spinning prospect. Despite the injury to their pace ace Mitchell Starc, they have a good variety in their pace attack. Josh Hazelwood and John Hastings would look to hit the deck hard and extract some bounce. On the contrary, James Faulkner is a clever exponent of bringing subtle variations in pace. Meanwhile Shane Watson and Mitchel Marsh would also be playing their part with some accurate medium pace bowling in the middle overs. The Aussies always back their cricket with some superlative fielding, hence would be competitive on the field.
The Aussies have won almost every piece of silverware at the World Stage except the World T-20 Trophy; hence they would surely play some real competitive cricket to bring back the trophy which has eluded them for long.
Notable Absentees: Mitchell Starc, George Bailey, Pat Cummins
Best Results: Finalist 2010, Semi-finals (2007, 2012)
Proteas once again look like a very strong team on paper going into the World Cup. Quinton de Kock and elegant Hashim Amla are the ideal opening pair to give them the momentum up the order. AB De Villiers a phenomenon with the bat could change the course of any match with his destructive yet innovative stroke play. Meanwhile Faf Du Plessis and JP Duminy with all their experience in the T-20 format would provide impetus to the middle order. Hard hitting batsman David Miller would surely be their impact player down the order and play the role of a finisher along with wicketkeeper batsman Farhaan Behardien. The Proteas look to have the best seam bowling line-up with their potent trio of Dale Steyn, Kyle Abbot and Kagiso Rabada. Chris Morris and David Wiese are handy seaming options who can be handy with the bat too. They have decent spinners in their ranks in ace leggie Imran Tahir who shall be partnered by the young Aaron Phangiso, all set to make a mark on the big stage. Rilee Rossouw is a talented batsman in the reserves who could be an exciting prospect to watch as the tournament unfolds.
So in all, the team has the arsenal to go all the way, but the biggest question which remains is whether they can handle the pressure at the knockout stages where they have been found wanting in the past.
Best Results: Semi-finalist (2010, 2014)
Notable Absentees: Morne Morkel, Albie Morkel, Wayne Parnell
New Zealand always peaked in ICC events and reached the penultimate stages of premier ICC tournaments on a consistent basis. The Kiwis on high after their brilliant campaign in the World Cup Down under would look to repeat the same in the shorter format. Martin Guptill looks like a class act when he gets his big hitting under way with relative ease. The classy Kane Williamson would be the lynchpin of the middle order around which their team would bat. Ross Taylor is a destructive player when on song and his IPL experience would come in handy. Meanwhile the big and burly Corey Anderson would be required to finish off things with a bang for the Kiwis.
The Kiwis have some exciting young fast bowlers in Trent Boult, Mitchell McClenaghan and Adam Milne who can generate some pace besides having their experience of Tim Southee. The squad has bits and pieces players in Nathan McCullum, Colin Munro and Grant Elliot who would lend depth to their squad. The spin attack is relatively inexperienced with the absence of Daniel Vettori, so the likes of Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi would have to prove their mantle in the upcoming event.
Notable Absentees: Brendon McCullum
Best Result: Semi-finalist (2007)
Sri Lanka has by far been the most consistent side in the T-20 World Cup with one title, besides making it to the finals on two occasions. Sri Lanka looks to be a side undergoing transition with a couple of their legendary players in Kumara Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene retiring in the recent past. They would heavily rely on their destructive opener Tillakaratne Dilshan to give them those fliers up the order. The middle order would be lent stability by seasoned batsmen in Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Matthews and Chamara Kapugedera. Angelo Matthews who has a calm head in pressure situations would be their impact player with the bat and ball. All-rounder Thisara Perera would play a crucial role in providing the flourish of runs towards the end.
Their bowling would be led by arguably the best T-20 fast bowlers in Lasith Malinga. Malinga would be partnered by their seasoned swing bowler Nuwan Kulasekara. They have some promising young pacers in Dushmantha Chameera and Dasun Shanaka who can bowl with brisk pace. Sri Lanka have a decent spin attack with the experienced Rangana Herath and crafty Sachithra Senanayake who has made a comeback post a reformed bowling action.
SriLankans have had considerable success at the ICC events in the recent past and would look to emulate their success once again.
Notable Absentees: Lahiru Thiramanne, Ajantha Mendis
Best Results: Winners (2014), Finalist (2009, 2012)
West Indies are one of most destructive sides in T-20 cricket. The Windies have some real match winners with both bat and ball. The Windies would look for the Big Jamaican Chris Gayle to fire on all cylinders. Gayle has surely been the most destructive T-20 batsman courtesy some scintillating display of stroke play in the big league across the world. The Windies batting line-up looks formidable with the likes of the attacking opener Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo and the talented Marlon Samuels who all can change the course of a match with their strokeplay.
Despite the absence of their ace spinner Sunil Narine, Windies have some decent spinners in their ranks with Samuel Badree and Suleiman Benn who bowl tight lines in the T-20 format. But what really sets apart the Windies is a string of all-rounder’s in Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy who have the ability to score some quick-fire cameos to chase down big totals. Add to that the ability to bowl their military medium in the right channel. The pace attack looks well settled and has the venom to trouble the best in the world. Young Jason Holder and the experienced Jerome Taylor would look to give their side the early breakthroughs. So in all, the maroon brigade looks like a potent threat to side if they can play well as a unit.
Notable Absentees: Keiron Pollard, Darren Bravo, Sunil Narine
Best Results: Winners (2012), Semi-Finalist (2009, 2014)
Pakistan have always been an immensely talented cricket side but self-destructive in their own ways, hence they are very unpredictable. The exciting and attacking brand of cricket the Pakis play is very much in synch with the demands of the T-20 format. They have some real good stroke players in Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal and Sarfraz Ahmed who can score at a brisk pace in the shorter format. They have handy all-rounder’s in the experienced and devastating Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik who are destructive with bat and handy with the ball.
Their spin attack would be led by the experienced leggie Shahid Afridi who is a master of his trade. Meanwhile Mohammad Nawaz who has been brilliant in the domestic season has been picked up to showcase his skill at the international level. Pakis known for their pace would bank on their tall pacer Muhammad Irfan to unsettle the top order with his unusual bounce and pace. Meanwhile Mohammad Sami and Wahab Riaz are great exponents of the reverse swing. The return of Mohammed Aamir after match fixing allegations shall surely bolster their pace attack.
Notable Absentees: Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul, Ahmed Shehzad
Best Results: Champions (2009) , Finalist (2007)
England would look for major contributions up their order from Alex Hales who is considered one the best openers in the T-20 format. Attacking batsman Jason Roy would open the innings with Hales. England’s most talented batsman Joe Root would be the mainstay of their batting in the middle order. Eoin Morgan, a proven match winner in the T-20 format would be the man to press on the acceleration button with his destructive stroke play. But in my opinion their impact player could be the inform wicketkeeper Joss Butler who has been in brilliant form by producing quick-fire cameos down the order to win England games.
England looks to have decent spinners in their line up with Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, both of whom have the knack of breaking partnerships. Their pace attack is made up of Steven Finn, Chris Jordan and Reece Topley who are specialist for the T-20 format. All-rounder Ben Stokes would have to play a key role in providing his side with some useful runs down the order and important breakthroughs with his military medium bowling.
Best Results: Champions (2010)
Notable Absentees: Stuart Broad, Ravi Bopara
So with that, I conclude the first edition of team previews where the top Eight of the sixteen nations competing have been covered. More team previews to follow in the next edition.
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