Georgetown, Guyana (AP) - For all the turmoil
surrounding the mysterious death of a coach and the myriad other
problems associated with the West Indies’ first hosting of a cricket
World Cup, the most enduring complaint was about the lack of a Caribbean
West Indies’ captain Chris
Gayle holds the Twenty20 trophy during a press conference ahead of the
Twenty20 Cricket World Cup in Georgetown, Guyana, Monday, April 26. (AP
West Indies organizers learned from hosting the 50-over
World Cup in 2007, and plan to make amends with a vibrant and vigorous
Twenty20 version which started last Friday.
Three years ago, a 46-day World Cup was marred by low
attendances and a lack of atmosphere and Australia dominated until the
farcical end, concluding with a lighting failure and contentious finish
to the final.
This month, the West Indies hosts the world’s top
teams again in the third edition of the ICC World Twenty20 and
everything points to a vigorous 17-day tournament for the cricket’s
newest and increasingly popular format.
The early exits of India and Pakistan hurt the
overall appeal while the untimely death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer
further sullied the mood in 2007, when stringent regulations were
already draining the tournament. This time, organizers are embracing the
mood and music that has typified Caribbean cricket for decades and have
lowered ticket prices to ensure more spectators.
Whatever happens off the field, the 2010 tournament
will also be judged by the on-field action.
Pakistan has the best track record in this T20 event,
having reached the final in the inaugural event in 2007 in South Africa
and claimed the title in the second edition last summer in England. The
Pakistanis also have the best winning percentage in the format, with 22
wins, seven losses and one no result in 30 matches. Recent upheavals -
including suspensions for leading players and even the disciplining of
their captain for this tournament, Shahid Afridi - are part of the
cricket landscape in Pakistan and should not blunt its chances.
Pakistan’s archrivals India were the inaugural world
T20 champions. And that triumph - the country’s first major title in
international cricket since 1983 - sparked a wave of popularity that
underpinned the creation of the lucrative and booming Indian Premier
The under-stated but well-respected Mahendra Singh
Dhoni led them to the 2007 title and his reputation as an astute leader
has heightened following his Chennai Super Kings’ championship last
month in the third edition of the IPL.
Australia, three-time defending champions in the
traditional 50-over version, were unceremoniously ousted in the first
round in the 2009 T20 World Cup, but have a strong team capable of
diversifying their trophy cabinet.
Sri Lanka, the 2009 runners-up, and South Africa are
both teams packed with class and depth and are viable title aspirants.
The hosts are not to be discounted, either, and
possess arguably the most dangerous player in the tournament in Kieron
Pollard. Pollard has ignited T20 cricket since his remarkable power-hitting
last October for Trinidad & Tobago in the first international Champions
League for the most powerful provincial teams. He had subsequent success
with South Australia’s Redbacks in Australia and the runner-up Mumbai
Indians in IPL 3. The allrounder’s international record is modest but
the T20 World Cup provides a perfect platform to correct that.
England, New Zealand and Bangladesh are the least
fancied of the other test nations while Zimbabwe, Ireland and
Afghanistan are hoping to boost reputations with an unexpected upset
over one or two of the more established teams.
Zimbabwe opted out of test cricket in 2006 and missed
last year’s T20 tournament in England due to political issues, but are
optimistic their cricket is moving in the right direction and a warm up
win over Australia last week certainly helped their confidence.
Ireland have good memories of the Caribbean following
a couple of upsets in the 2007 World Cup over Pakistan and Bangladesh.
More overachievement will help advance their claims to become the ICC’s
11th full member.
Afghanistan’s mere presence here is a success story
as the war-torn country climbed from the depth of the ICC’s lowest
division two years ago to take its place among the world’s elite. Last
Wednesday’s five-wicket win over Ireland with three balls to spare in a
warm up match ensured that the other teams will be taking the Afghans
seriously. After all, the Netherlands’ shock victory over hosts England
in the opening match of the previous ICC World Twenty20 last June was
the upset of the tournament.