Sat | Jan 28, 2023

Place a bet on WI for the double

Published:Sunday | May 2, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Tony Becca, Contributor

The World Twenty20 cricket tournament got under way on Friday, and with shots of all descriptions racing along the grass to the boundary and sailing through the air over it, with the fielding brilliant on the ground and magnificent in the air, the promise is for an exciting 27 matches and a thrilling contest.

Apart from wondering just how newcomers Afghanistan will fare and if, like The Netherlands against England last year, they will cover themselves in glory by ambushing one of the big guns, the question from the fans is this: who will win the shoot-out?

With so many licking their fingers and eyeing the honours, with so many in with a real chance, it is difficult to even offer a guess.

Pakistan, the defending champions who boast a right-arm leg-spinning, hard-hitting all-rounder like captain Shahid Afridi who once took four wickets for 11 runs off the allotted four overs and who, as a 16-year-old in 1996, once struck a century off 37 deliveries in a One-day International, batsmen like Salman Butt, the Akmal brothers, Kamal and Umar, and bowlers like pacers Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Sami, and also left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman, must be among the early favourites.

So too, must be the previous champions India, even without star batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwaq.

India, Australia dangerous

Represented this time by batsmen like Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, captain Mahendra Dhoni, and the hard-hitting Yusuf Pathan, plus bowlers like the left-handed pacers Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, right-arm leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, India must be in with a good chance.

Looking elsewhere, there are also the dangerous Australia who are without ace batsman Ricky Ponting, but who are well served by a line-up that includes captain Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Shane Watson, and the hard-hitting David Warner as batsmen, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait, Watson, and Nathan Hauritz as bowlers plus all-rounder Cameron White, and England with the likes of Kevin Pietersen, captain Paul Collingwood, and Ravi Bopara as batsmen and James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, and Graeme Swann as bowlers.

While England may not have enough guns to keep firing for 17 days and to blow away all of their opposition, the same cannot be said of South Africa or Sri Lanka.

South Africa, it is true, have flattered only to deceive on many occasions.

With a combination of captain Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs - the man who smashed six sixes in one over during the last World Cup, and J. P. Duminy as batsmen, however, with pacers Dale Steyn, Roelof Van der Merwe, Charl Langeveldt, and Kallis, plus off-spinner Johan Botha as bowlers, it could be a different story this time around.

And so, too, for Sri Lanka who buckled at the final hurdle last year when, after defeating the West Indies in the semi-final, they lost to Pakistan.

Tillakaratne Dilshan, however, the hero of last year, is still there as a batsman, and so too are captain Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, and the veteran Sanath Jayasuriya as batsmen, Angelo Matthews as a bowler/batsman, Lasith Malinga as the deadly, arrow-like pacer, and also off-spinners Muttiah Muralitheran and Ajantha Mendis.

The team to watch, however, the team which the home town fans are cheering for, and the team which, if you believe them, the rest of the world are hoping will return to its glory days as quickly as possible is the West Indies.

Can the West Indies win the Cup?

Yes, they can, and with all the problems in West Indies cricket, that would be great for West Indies cricket.

The West Indies may not be the best, nor near to being the best in Test cricket. In Twenty20 cricket, however, they should be good enough to win not only matches, but also tournaments.

Twenty20 cricket is short and sweet, although the West Indies lost to New Zealand on Wednesday and gave their fans a scare on Friday, it is tailor-made for them, and although, because of the nature of the game, any number can play, all things being equal, with confidence, good captaincy, good team spirit, a one-for-all, all-for-one approach, and a never-say-die attitude, they should win more than they lose.

Hope for the best

This time around, the hope is that the West Indies will win every game and go on to win the title.

Apart from the fact that they knocked out both England and Australia last time, the reason for that hope is the presence of a good all-round team - a team which, despite its unpredictable batting, includes a solid and sometimes explosive batsman like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a solid and sometimes exciting batsman in Ramnaresh Sarwan, a good, dependable batsman like Narsingh Deonarine, a hard-hitting batsman in Christopher Gayle - the man who blasted seven fours and 10 sixes off 57 deliveries while smashing the tournament's only century during an innings of 117, and although he is still to chalk his cue when batting for the West Indies, an explosive batsman like Kieron Pollard.

On top of that, there is, potentially, the brilliant all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, although he must be considered lucky to be in the team following his recent injuries, there is Jerome Taylor and his quality as a fast bowler, there are two good pacers in Kemar Roach and Ravi Rampaul, there are two good left-arm spin bowlers in Sulieman Benn and Nikita Miller, and there is the more than usual all-rounder Daren Sammy.

Victory for the West Indies, however, could depend on what happens in the field, and hopefully the likes of Bravo, Pollard, and Chanderpaul can inspire their colleagues.

As far as the women's contest is concerned, the West Indies are also not numbered among the favourites.

Boasting the likes of Claire Taylor, Sarah Taylor, and captain Charlotte Edwards, defending champions England are the clear favourites, and although they are missing captain Jodie Fields due to injury, Australia and the likes of Alex Blackwell, Shelly Nitschke, and Sarah Elliott are right behind them.

New Zealand, with players like Suzie Bates, Aimee Mason (Watkins), and Sophie Devine, and India, with a batsman such as Jhulan Goswami and an array of spin bowlers in right-arm leg-spinners Reema Malhotra and Mithali Raj plus off-spinner Diana David, are also right up there.

Apart from playing at home, however, the Windies girls have been playing well and have pocketed some good scalps since the World Cup last year.

The champions were not at full strength, and that has to be taken into consideration. Apart from those of Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Pakistan, however, the scalps included those of England, and in the words of the England captain, "they (the West Indies) have improved a hell of a lot since June."

Talented players

There is no doubt about it, however, in players like Stacey-Ann King, Cordel Jack, Anis Mohammed, Tremayne Smartt, Shakera Selman, left-arm pacer Shanel Daley, captain Marissa Aquilliera, and most importantly the teen-aged sensations, batsmen Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin, the West Indies will be parading some talented players and they could surprise the fans.

It will not be easy for one or the other, and it will take a little luck on both sides.

It would be something, however, if both West Indies teams make it to Kensington Oval for the finals on Sunday, May 16. It would be great if the two West Indies teams end up walking away as champions of the world.