A Test of Nerves – World T20 Preview

As India prepares to host the 2016 World T20, a lot of pop ups are doing the rounds. Teams are coming into the tournament with their recent form at completely different levels. Taking into account their common goal and the conditions on offer, let’s take a look at how the two groups stack up!

Group 1: Afghanistan, England, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies

Sri Lanka, the defending champions, go into the tournament on the back of a few below par performances. The departure of Mahela and Sangakkara has left a huge hole in the batting department and it will be upto Dilshan and Chandimal to do most of the scoring. They will also be banking a lot on Matthews and Malinga to keep their opponents under check. South Africa, unsurprisingly, have one of the stronger squads on paper. They will hope that the experience gained by their players during the IPL will hold them in good stead for the next month. AB de Villiers will be their default batting mainstay while a lot will also be expected from Imran Tahir on the slow, turning tracks. The West Indian extravaganza will be on full throttle as the likes of Gayle, Bravo, Sammy etc. will look to infuse their very own Caribbean flavor to this World Cup. They have enough firepower in all departments but as always, it will boil down to consistency and whether they can hold their ground during the cliffhangers.

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The Barmy Army have selected a good number of T20 specialists to make sure that their World Cup isn’t shunted in anyway. Eoin Morgan’s team will have to punch a bit above their weight if they want to live their fairytale but fuelled by the likes of Butler, Root, Ali and Stokes, they have what it takes to unleash total carnage. The Afghans have shown tremendous grit and skill while coasting into the main draw. Shahzad and Stanikzai have lit up the batting while Nabi has been excellent with both bat and ball. The bowling has been impressive but they will have to take it up a few notches to harbor dreams of winning even a single match.

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Group 2: Australia, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Pakistan

The hosts, on the back of an impressive run in T20I’s will start as firm favorites to progress from this group. India have looked ominous in recent times with series victories over Australia, SriLanka and of course, in the Asia Cup. Their star studded batting line up should relish the home conditions and with the return of Shami, the bowling has got that extra boost. With a billion hearts to please, they will want to continue the juggernaut and go all the way. Australia will want to shed their poor record in this format and will strive to be relentlessly bellicose. Warner has fit in beautifully at 4 and considering Watson’s bowling skills and his experience of playing in India, Smith might very well have to choose between Finch and Khawaja to open their innings. The squad definitely has what it takes to exude the Aussie swagger and will be desperate get their hands on the one major trophy that has eluded them.

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New Zealand, though without the charisma and bludgeoning skills of Brendon McCullum, have enough arsenal to blast through any side. Guptil and Williamson have had a dream run at the top. Munro and Anderson have been at their marauding best. Considering the pitches, their bowling might be a little susceptible to an onslaught but Southee and Co will be confident about adapting to the conditions and will want to bring out their ‘A’ game consistently. Pakistan’s batting remains a worry with only Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal showing some positive signs. Bolstered by the return of Mohammad Amir, their bowling is up there with the very best and this, without a doubt, will be their stronger suit. Bangladesh have breezed through the qualifiers but they will face a whole new set of challenges against the big boys. Given their recent endeavors, the confidence levels will be on an all-time high. Though it is difficult to see Bangladesh and Pakistan moving further in the tournament, it will be very naive to rule anyone out in this format.

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The beauty about the next three weeks is that there is no script. Build ups and predictions count for nothing as on a given day, any team can go into beast mode. What this World Cup promises though is a bucket load of high quality cricket and entertainment. So grab a plate, pick a drink and sit back and enjoy what is going to be an amazing roller-coaster.

The Asian Throne

Launchpads are the quintessential campaign thrusters. They’re a precursive push which when used to perfection, has the potential to take you the extra mile. Generally, the Asia Cup is extremely subdued in comparison to its more illustrious brothers like the Champions Trophy and the biennial & quadrennial World Cups. This time however, it promised to be more than just the Asian heavyweights flexing their muscles.  The format itself was tweaked to provide an opportunity to prepare and fine tune for the much more awaited World T20. Though it missed a few boxes, most of the teams have got an idea as to what needs to be improved. Come Sunday night, it will be the hosts, Bangladesh or the favorites, India who will have earned a huge confidence boost.

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Bangladesh came into the tournament with a lot to prove. Their recent exploits in the shorter formats of the game combined with the fact that they were playing in their own backyard meant that they were a force to be reckoned with. Barring the initial blip against India, Mortaza’s boys have been very impressive. After a comprehensive 51 run victory over the UAE, it was time for them to come good against some stronger opponents.  Sabbir Rahman played a magnificent innings and on a lively pitch, the bowlers proved to be lethal as they edged a weakened SriLanka by 23 runs. This win, combined with other results meant that a victory over a dynamic Pakistan in their next game guaranteed them a place in the Asia Cup Final. What followed was a memorable performance. The bowlers came to the party as Al Amin, Taskin, Mortaza and the others shredded the Pakistani top order. The batting, though jittery at times, completed the 130 run heist which sent an entire nation into an elongated frenzy.

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On the other hand, India have done what they were expected to do, smash. Kohli and Rohit have led the batting front while all the bowlers have dished out commendable performances. Yuvi has his swagger back, Pandya is growing with every game, Bumrah is shaping into a wonderful death bowler and the captain himself, after a couple of decent hits in the middle, is looking more relaxed. Yes, they have been in a spot of bother on a few occasions with Mohammad Amir’s jaw dropping spell taking the top honors. But, in the face of calamity, this team has shown that it has what it takes to weather the storm and that quality is what will please Dhoni the most going into the T20 World Cup.

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The final promises to be a spectacle. Bangladesh will face an uphill task against a dominant Indian side. Though victory seems a distant possibility, it’ll be very naive to rule them out especially in this format. Mortaza will want his boys to punch above their weights so that they can go forward with a psychological edge. India will rely on their big match experience and will hope that their match winners stamp their class once again. The game might come down to who reads and respects the lively pitches better. The sub plots though, add a lot more juice for this contest. Will Taskin keep Rohit under check? Will the Kohli juggernaut extend? Can Shakib stand up for The Tigers? Will the Indian bowling fairytale continue? Can Dhoni add another trophy to his glittering cabinet? At the end of this tussle for the Asian Throne, the answers to these will see the light of day.

 

 

 

India Vs Srilanka – Series Review

Cricket as such is a funny game. You can sweat it out for as long as five entire days and still not get a winner while on the other hand a sudden burst of adrenaline/brilliance can change the entire complexion in a matter of minutes. India came into the series having whitewashed the Australians in their own backyard. Yes, the Kangaroos don’t jump as high in T20 Internationals as they do in the other formats but nothing can take the sheen away from what the Indian side achieved.

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Coming into a familiar terrain and up against a depleted opponent, another whitewash was certainly expected. Unfortunately, the Indian batting was at the receiving end of a sizeable amount of brilliance from the Lankan bowlers in Pune. The Indian batsmen struggled to keep the scoreboard moving and the spineless display saw them fold for a paltry 101. Inspite of a few hiccups, Sri Lanka managed to get over the line. The win was significant for them as they were missing a lot of their regulars and it was a huge confidence boost. Moving to Ranchi, the Lankans were looking to create another upset and seal the series in Dhoni’s hometown. They had another thing coming though. Dhawan and Rohit mercilessly bludgeoned their bowlers and India were off to a flier. Dhawan in particular was very impressive with the pick-up shot over deep square leg catching everyone’s eye. Cameos from Raina and a promoted Hardik Pandya saw India amass a mammoth 196. A heartwarming reversal from a diabolical batting campaign a couple of days prior to that.

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Sri Lanka were never really in the game as they lost wickets at regular intervals. The Indian bowlers executed their plans perfectly which gave them a thumping 69 run win. Vizag was scheduled to host the decider with India staring as firm favorites. Dhoni called it right and put his opponents in to bat. What followed was a bowling masterclass lead by Ravichandran Ashwin. India’s leading spinner finished with 4 wickets as Sri Lanka were bundled out for a paltry 82. Dhawan and Rohit started slowly but with just 83 to get, the run rate was never a problem. Even after Rohit fell, Dhawan combined with Rahane to make sure that India won its first bilateral T20I series at home under Dhoni.

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With comprehensive series victories at home and in Australia, the World T20 preparation has started brilliantly for India. Sri Lanka on the other hand will await the return of their senior players and will hope that their young side can have a decent preparation during the Asia Cup. India will look to fine tune and give a few players like Yuvraj more chances to get back to his best. For now, Dhoni and his boys can sit back and enjoy what has been a commendable performance.