Tony Becca, Contributor
The fourth World Twenty20 championship kicks off in Sri Lanka on Tuesday and after all the excitement that this form of the game has generated since its coming and after the thrills of the first championship - the world, everyone - is waiting anxiously for the first ball to be bowled, and probably for the first victory by the West Indies.
No one will forget that first showdown in South Africa when Christopher Gayle of the West Indies started the ball rolling by slamming 117 off 57 deliveries against South Africa; when Yuvraj Singh of India blasted 50 off 12 deliveries against England - a feat that included six sixes in one over off fast bowler Stuart Broad; when Brett Lee, Australia's big fast bowler, routed Bangladesh with the game's first hat-trick in the shortest version of the game that is; and when players ran, dived, stopped, caught or threw down the stumps like magicians.
Neither will the fans forget the preliminary match in which India defeated Pakistan in a bowl-off of one over after the scores had ended tied on 141 and 141 - not after both sides ended up in the final and India won the match after Pakistan went into the last four deliveries needing six runs for victory.
Since then, Pakistan returned to defeat Sri Lanka in the final in England in 2008 and England defeated Australia in the final in the West Indies in 2010.
The next championship will start in two days' time, all the big guns will be there including Gayle, Yuvraj and Lee; all the amazing hitters and acrobatic fielders will be there and there will be new faces, all set to light up the world of cricket, especially those who love the game for the sound of bat against ball, for the pleasure of seeing players running and diving, flying and catching and for the sight of the ball sailing high and over the boundary, far over it.
And the stage is set.
The conditions should favour spin, but it may not. The teams usually depend on pace, but although the conditions in Sri Lanka may not favour spin this time around, it is spin that most of the teams may rely on. And the fielding will definitely be exciting.
Among the favourites, and possibly the favourites, especially according to some of those who play the game, are the West Indies, and all that mainly because of their bunch of stars, because of their hard-hitting stars.
Among those lining up in Sri Lanka and fighting for the title, however, will be England, Australia, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Pakistan and of course, last but not least, Ireland, the giant killers.
England, with the likes of Eoin Morgan, Craig Kieswetter, Luke Wright, Stuart Broad, Steve Finn, Tm Bresnan and Graeme Swann, will be good. Australia with Shane Watson, Mike Hussey, David Warner, Pat Cummins and Cameron White, will also be good; so too South Africa with Hashim Amla, A.B. deVillers, Jacques Kallis, Jean-Paul Duminy, Dave Steyn and Morne Morkel; and India, with Gautum Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Virot Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, M.S. Dhoni, Zaheer Khan and Ravi Ashman, will also be good.
Despite their history of performing below expectations, so too will be Pakistan and their bunch of talented players, including Mohammad Hafeez, Shaoib Malik, Imran Nazir, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Saed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi. So too will be Sri Lanka and their men Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tilakaratne Dilshan, Lasinth Malinga, Angelo Matthews and Ajantha Mendis, and so too will be Ireland, who, with the likes of William Pottersfield, Ed Joyce, Kevin O'Brien, Trent Johnson and young George Dockrell, will be there to surprise one or two teams.
The team which will also be there is the West Indies and looking at their line-up, if everything works out for them, if they play true to form, or if they hit top form, they could, and they should, make it a championship to remember, at least for the West Indies and their fans.
In fact, remembering how the world loved the West Indies style once upon a time, how they loved what the fans once called 'calypso cricket' and how the fans still crave for the West Indies of old, a West Indies victory may also please the world.
The West Indies may not be among the world's elite teams in Test cricket at this time, but unlike Australia, who were beaten by Pakistan recently to fall to number 10, one below Ireland and two behind Bangladesh, they boast the kind of players which are suited for this the shortest form of the game, for what some call the 'hit or miss' type of play and if they fire they could turn the championship into one big, dazzling fireworks display.
And for once, the West Indies, with captain Darren Sammy, will not be playing one man short. They will be at full strength and good strength at that, made so by Sammy's batting, bowling and fielding.
In Gayle, the West Indies parade the world's most devastating batsman in limited-overs cricket with Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Sunil Narine they boast some of Twenty20 cricket's superstars and with Dwayne Smith, Andre Russell and Sammy, plus Dwayne Bravo, they boast some of Twenty20 cricket's hard-hitting all-rounders.
In other words, the batting, with so many all-rounders, is aggressive and good for this kind of cricket; the bowling, with so many all-rounders, looks good for this short version of the game; the fielding, with Dwayne Bravo, Pollard, Smith, Russell and Sammy, looks good and if they click, it may be celebration time in Sri Lanka.
Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Pollard, Sammy, Ramdin, Edwards, Rampaul and Narine are almost certain to play and the problem will be who to leave out, or who to include in order to get a balanced team.
The West Indies may need a team of their best batsmen, of solid batsmen. They may also need their best bowlers in order to win and maybe the team should be four specialist batsmen, three all-rounders, one wicketkeeper and three specialist bowlers.
Although this team may look somewhat like a bits-and-pieces team, my starting 11 - from the squad of 14 - would be, Gayle, Simmons, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels - providing he watches the scoreboard and bats accordingly, Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Sammy, Denesh Ramdin, Rampaul, Edwards and Narine.
Who to tell, if the West Indies select this team, if Gayle and the all-rounders fire, this may be, or could be, the West Indies' time to jump and dance, despite the ranking, which reads, in order, South Africa, England, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, West Indies, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Ireland, Australia and Zimbabwe.
CAPTION: From left: cricketers Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor, South African captain AB de Villiers, Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Australia captain George Bailey, England captain Stuart Broad, Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene, West Indies captain Darren Sammy, Ireland captain William Porterfield, Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim, New Zealand captain Ross Taylor, and Afghanistan captain Nawroz Mangal pose for an official team captains photograph with the ICC World Twenty20 Trophy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, yesterday. - AP