Archive for September, 2012

Upsets to look out for at the ICCWorld T20

By Samir Pai

For any connoisseur of T20 cricket, one special feature of the format is the upsets that a minnow can inflict on the heavy weights. Every edition has seen upsets at galore and this edition will surely not be an exception. As seen in the just concluded India vs. Afghanistan match, the spirited men from the land of the pathans, remained in hunt of an upset right up to the very end of the match.  

The very first edition saw the indomitable Australians eat the humble pie against Zimbabwe, along with the babes of Asia Bangladesh beat a far more formidable West Indies.  The Second edition of the T20 world saw Netherlands beat hosts England in the round stage, along with West Indies beat the mighty Australians, who were still to decode the shortest format of the game. That was not all; the naturally gifted individuals from the Caribbean islands delivered the killer blow to the defending champions India in the group of 8s! Results in the third edition in the West Indies, saw no drastic results, like in the previous two editions, however a much fancied & IPL hardened India, lost all their matches except against lowly Afghanistan.   

While the Fourth Edition sees big teams more in tune with the requirements of the T20 format, making upsets difficult to achieve! It is no hidden fact that the T20 format provides the much lesser opponents their best chance to make a statement against the power centres of world cricket. How else would you explain an all charged Australia, turning out at their aggressive best against lowly Ireland and India sweating it out till the very end against Afghanistan!

In the humble view of the writer here are two of the matches that could deliver upsets! Your feedback and counterviews will be most appreciated in form of responses!

  1. 1.       24th September – West Indies Vs Ireland

 

This match should feature a mercurial west indies taking on a disciplined Ireland. While the West Indies possesses some of the best T20 players in the world, as a side they could disintegrate against a side that has county hardened and a disciplined lot from Ireland.

  1. 2.        25th September – Pakistan Vs Bangladesh

Anybody who has witnessed Bangladesh in the last edition of the Asia Cup would know of their huge improvements, especially in the limited over format of the game. It does not need rocket science to know that they would present their most dangerous self in the shortest format of the game! A temperamental Pakistani batting is what they would look to target to make most of that encounter.

I am sure the odds are stacked against these two lesser opponents, however if you are the betting types, looking to beat the odds for a big bounty, these are the games to look at with high interest.  For the rest of the general sports loving   folks like this writer, these two games provide you with the utmost joy of David conquer Goliath!  Happy gaming & viewing and enjoy the most democratic format of cricket at its highest level.

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Indian cricket’s ‘Special one ‘on cusp of a treble of world championships!

By Samir Pai

There is no doubt that MS Dhoni epitomizes the phrase ‘destiny’s child’ as far as India cricket is concerned. A rustic background from a region that is not a natural breeding ground for young cricketing talents; Dhoni emerged from the back lanes of Indian domestic cricket to evolve into one of the finest captain/ player, in the limited overs format of the game.

 Easily one of the best finishers of the game in the ODI format, Dhoni’s success at the game is not only confined to him being a brilliant player, but also the strategic head of the side, as its captain. His rise in stature as a leader since the fairytale World T20 campaign in South Africa 2007, has been phenomenally meteoric !

While his test record in the recent past has taken away a little sheen from his remarkable achievements as a captain; there is no denying the fact that in the limited over format & subcontinent conditions, Dhoni is the undisputed king.

If Dhoni & boys claim top honours at the forthcoming T20 world edition in Sri Lanka, he surely will become India’s best limited overs captains of all times.  After all it will be no mean feat to win three world championships!

However unlike the ODI World Cup which India won in emphatic style, the World T20 campaign is going to be a lot tougher for Dhoni & Co, primarily owing to the precarious nature of the T20 format. Such is the format that it makes it a far more equitable competition amongst competing teams! T20 as a format also negates to a large extent the advantage enjoyed by sub continent sides, in their own backyard, over their otherwise formidable rivals like Australia, England & South Africa ! Also the fact that many of the top international players of the world, play in the T20 leagues in the sub continent, including the IPL ; acclimatizes them to the playing conditions far better than in other formats of the game.  How Dhoni counters the competition will make an interesting watch!

MS Dhoni’s leadership style is almost akin to ‘brawler’ style boxer, who soaks in lot of punches & punishment from his opponent before finally counter attacking in the end with powerful punches to deliver the fatal knockout blow.  As seen in the recently concluded T20 verses New Zealand, Dhoni waited till the very last to deliver his final onslaught! There he was unsuccessful!  However record shows that this strategy has worked more often for him than not! The origins of such a strategy can also be inferred to his team composition being lop sided in favour of batsmen, weakening an already thin bowing line up.  Interesting to observe during  the T20 world, would be to see if Dhoni modifies his composition to strengthen his bowling line up with an additional bowler like Harbhajan ( also a decent lower middle order batsman in T20 format) or remains rigid with 7 batsmen/4 bowler composition!

Dhoni”s leadership in cricket is almost comparable to another titled ‘special one’ from a different sport, football- Jose Mourinho!  Both are canny, street-smart, outspoken and often successfully in blunting more attacking & free flowing opponents with effective defensive tactics and supreme man management skills.   Dhoni as a player is a different story , but Dhoni as a leader will surely seal his name in the annals  of Indian Cricket, as its greatest limited over captain, if he succeeds in winning is third world championship.

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Consortium of T20 league superstars could propel Calypsos as world beaters again.

By  Samir Pai

 

A bygone era saw the West Indies as the supreme side that dominated world cricket in all the then existing formats of the game.  Winners of the first two editions of the ODI world Cup, a galaxy of feared fast bowlers and supremely attacking  batsmen made them the rulers of world cricket. 

The present day West Indian cricket is a shadow of its former glory days.  Many factors have been attributed to this fall- athletes and sports inclined talents, looking at other sporting disciplines ( mainly the more financiall lucrative  North American sports), talented individual players who could never collectively form a strong unit, essential for  a team sport like cricket!

 However since the advent of the T20 format of the game, something  suited to the temperament of  mercurial  & naturally talented cricketers , coupled with the mushrooming of T20 leagues around the world in the last five years, has led to a resurgence and realistic expectation of the famed Calypsos being bestowed  the favourite tags at the forthcoming T20 world in Sri Lanka.

Led by the affable and hard working all rounder Daryl Sammy, this side possess talents’ that have been most sought after in T20 leagues such as the Australian big bash and the glitzy IPL. The most destructive T20 player in the world  is undoubtedly Chris Gayle and his return to the national fold should see him propel the chances of his side along with other T20 hardened specialists such as Pollard, Bravo and new spin wonderkid at IPLV, Sunil Narine.  While the bulk work  in batting and bowling will be done by the galaxy of all rounders that reads names like Pollard, Russel, Bravo & Samuels; it will be the specialist of the  likes of Gayle, Darren Bravo with bat and Edwards , Rampaul and Narine with the ball, who may prove the deciding factor in big matches.

The Windies look to possess all the arsenals in terms of talent,  experience and natural aggressive flair, to do well  in this tournament!  However the deciding factor in their fortunes may  be decided by how these supremely talented individuals combine as a unit.

If the Windies succeed at this edition of the T20 World, it will also be a great testimonial of T20 leagues around the world , especially the subcontinent, where these talented individuals ply their trade. Rather than a domestic structure and talent harnessing system as that seen in  nations like Australia and South Africa, here is a multinational consortium  of players who have battle hardened their skills and game in foreign leagues.

However  even the most enthusiastic West Indian fan would be cautioned by the fact that his/her side participating at the T20 world is much akin to a talented African or South American  soccer nation, bestowed with brilliant indigenous talents plying their trade in top foreign leagues.  Though these  brilliant footballers are the toasts of their clubs in Europe , their proficiency at winning somehow never translates to the fullest while playing for their nation at the world stage.

This phenomenon  of  foreign talents from top cup leagues  trying to translate their club success  to their national  team was first displayed in maximum glare in the 1990 FIFA world cup in Italy by the indomitable lions , Cameroon & is now displayed by the West Indies in cricket in the T20 format. It also reflects how like Europe is the nerve centre of football the subcontinent is the nerve centre for world cricket.

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