Hard-hitting cricket will be the talk of the town when the fifth edition of the World Twenty20 kicks off with the ‘qualifiers’ on Sunday.
Player of the event: S Afridi
Top scorer: M Hayden (265 runs)
Top wicket-taker: U Gul (13 wickets)
Runner-up: Sri Lanka
Player of the event: T Dilshan
Top scorer: T Dilshan (317 runs)
Top wicket-taker: U Gul (13 wickets)
Player of the event: K Pietersen
Top scorer: M Jayawardene (302 runs)
Top wicket-taker: D Nannes (14 wickets)
Winner: West Indies
Runner-up: Sri Lanka
Player of the event: S Watson
Top scorer: S Watson (249 runs)
Top wicket-taker: A Mendis (15 wickets)
Cricket will shed all pretensions of being a lazy, nuanced game and reward brute force when top teams brawl in Bangladesh over the next three weeks. Batsmen will walk out wielding heavy, modern bats with the sole aim of whacking the ball into the orbit in front of a largely young crowd with insatiable appetite for the crash-bang format.
The tournament is still likely to be a batting exhibition over 35 matches at three venues culminating with the April 6 final at Mirpur's Shere Bangla National Stadium.
India, after having won the inaugural edition in 2007, have failed to feature in any of the three finals since. They have opted for a blend of youth and experience but captain MS Dhoni's major worry will be India's bowling frailty which has recently been laid bare in other formats.
Pakistan, runners-up to their arch-rivals then, won the second edition in England. For the talented team, the challenge essentially will be to curb their tendency to implode if they are to repeat their triumph.
The Sri Lankans who are fully aware what victory means for their passionate fans who have endured the agony of watching their team falter in the final of four World Cups - both 50 and 20-over - since 2007. In Tillakaratne Dilshan and captain Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka have two batsmen who can clear the boundary almost at will.
Defending champions West Indies will rely on Chris Gayle's power-hitting and Marlon Samuels' street-smart cricket to see them through, but they will miss Kieron Pollard's all-rounder service after the Trinidad player hurt his knee.
England look even more depleted, yet to settle down after the unceremonious axing of Kevin Pietersen, who was adjudged player of the tournament in their 2010 triumph in West Indies.
Much of the hitting is expected from the Australians who will land eyeing the only major cricket silverware missing from their trophy cabinet.
Twelve matches over the next five days will decide which two teams join the big boys in the main event with India and Pakistan lighting up the tournament in the opener on March 21.
Players to watch out for:
Shahid Afridi. His swashbuckling batting and fiery legspin make him an exciting player in the shortest format of the game but there is always a chance for him to self-destruct, by throwing away his wicket at a crucial juncture or by means of wayward bowling.
Shane Watson. Watson has the power to pummel any opposition attack and is particularly harsh against the spinners. The all-rounder's ability of hit the spinners out of the ground will make sure Australia do not get tied down in the middle overs.
Marlon Samuels. The classy stroke-player can play all the shots in the book and is almost unstoppable when he is on song with the bat. He is also a part-time off-spinner who can fire in deliveries in the block hole.
Lasith Malinga. Malinga's fast, unorthodox action, toe-crushing yorkers, slow bouncers and pinpoint accuracy make him one of modern day cricket's most versatile bowlers.
Mitchell Johnson. The left-arm paceman will be tough to face even on the low and slow pitches in Bangladesh as he has the ability to generate express pace from the most docile of surfaces.
|Defending champions West Indies remain one of the most destructive batting sides in the world [GALLO/GETTY]
Saeed Ajmal. The off-spinner, the best exponent of the other way turning 'doosra', is also the most successful bowler in the format. Pakistan will depend heavily on Ajmal's knack of restricting the scoring rate and picking up wickets under pressure.
Sunil Narine. Batsmen have found it extremely difficult to score against the off-spinner who enjoys an enviable economy rate of 5.85 in the batting-dominated format.
Chris Gayle. No boundary is big enough for the left-handed opener and even his mishits often land in the stands. In recent times, Gayle has been more watchful during the initial overs, signalling his intent to bat long and launch into the slower bowlers in the middle overs.
David Warner. A stocky left-handed opener who can single-handedly win a match for his team. Warner boasts of a strike rate of 138 in Twenty20 Internationals and can clear the boundary at will.
Virat Kohli. His aggression and youthful exuberance reflect in the way he bats. Kohli can score fast without looking ugly and can pace his innings according to the game's demand.
AB de Villiers. When in flow, De Villiers is a nightmare for any bowler for his knack to improvise which can upset any field setting. He is South Africa's best batsman currently, also dons the gloves which affords his side more balance.
The players' verdict:
Mohammad Hafeez - "We’re happy as a team. It seems our group has all the favourites in it. It's again a good challenge for the team. You can't take things easy. You have to give your best to win the game."
Brendon McCullum - "We’re quietly confident. We’ve just got to make sure that we adapt to the conditions really quickly, start the tournament well and try to build some momentum from there. That's going to be the key for us.”
MS Dhoni - "We have got the IPL where we have played with the best players and the standard there is as high as international standards so that really amounts to the experience we need."
Dinesh Chandimal - "There's a lot of expectation among the fans that we will win the tournament as well, and even within the team, there is a belief that we can win this. We will have to put in a lot of effort, and take it from game to game.”
Shane Watson - "We've got the most balanced side that I've ever been involved with. We have the firepower consistently all the way down our batting order and bowling-wise we've got options.”
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies