Let the Games.. Begin!

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So, after 12 matches – almost half of which affected by rain, and almost all of which nobody really cared about unless you were a Bangladesh team supporter – today is when the T20 World Cup finally begins. And the tournament is back in India, truly it’s rightful home.

Yes, it might be the third consecutive year cricket is seeing yet another World Cup – after the T20 World Cup in 2014 and the ‘real’ 50-over World Cup 2015 – and the fifth  in the last six years, but don’t let it fool you into believing it is going to be just-another-world-cup. This year, a lot is at stake and heads are about to roll depending on who wins and who loses.

The stage is already set with Australia and South Africa already having had a ruthless go at each other in their own corner away from the glare while the first stage of this tournament was already in progress. Australia will be looking to assert their domination over South Africa in World Cups once again, whereas South Africa would be aiming for their first win of any ICC World tournament and overcome the “chokers” tag they so despise. Will SA finally realize their dream of a coveted trophy or will Australia add the missing T20 feather to their cap which is already overcrowded with so many other world cup triumphs?

India have just shown their complete T20 dominance over their continent in the Asia Cup, and of Australia in Australia, and feel confident that they have their death-bowling woes finally sorted out. With their Captain Cool recently showing sparks of thunder in his ultra-short-super-fast innings in the Asia Cup, along with the top order batting being in the form of their lives, and Yuvraj Singh finally looking like he is coming back into his flamboyant best, team India are firmly set as favourites to win the high stakes tournament.

With Bangladesh having shown  what a magically improved side they have become since last year’s world cup, having beaten India last year and Sri Lanka and Pakistan this year, no team can afford to take them lightly anymore. But the pressure will still be upon them to perform up to expectations they have managed to create. England are just as dangerous as any other side though, historically, they always managed to create problems for themselves in World Cups. Will England be able to stamp their authority on the game and win the T20 World Cup a second time?

New Zealand have always been a terrific team on paper and proved their mettle by progressing to the final of last year’s World Cup, but to emulate their success in the sub-continent, in the absence of McCullum – arguably their fiercest leader till date – will be a big challenge which NZ might have a hard time overcoming.

Of the dark horses in the tournament, defending champions Sri Lanka are probably the team with the most problems in this tournament – yes, I mean more than even Pakistan. Pakistan have already had their usual share of pre-tournament problems, from the uncertainty over their participation in the tournament until quite recently, to their top players such as Afridi recently coming under fire for saying they felt more loved by the Indian audiences than their own home country – something that might hammer the final nail into the coffin carrying Pakistan’s chances at the World Cup, considering their poor showing at the Asia Cup. It is starting to feel a little bit like how their own media had vilified them at the start of last year’s World Cup after they lost to India, but then they did turn things around and came back with much better performances. So Pakistan have this much to be said about them that they are an unpredictable team which can play the most passionate game or the most lacklusture one; who can beat, and lose to, any team imaginable. It will all depend on whether the Good Pakistan or the Bad Pakistan turns up on match day. On the other hand, Sri Lanka themselves are known to upp their game in such tournaments and might turn up as far more clinical a side than we have seen them to be in recent times. It will be interesting to see if either of these teams beats expectations and manages to even progress to the next round. Will Pakistan continue to be dominated by India in the World Cups or will they be able to break the jinx? Have Sri Lanka finally dipped so low that they will no longer remain the feared opponent in world cricket as they used to be?

West Indies, have continued to have their own share of problems for decades now, but only the shortest format of the game gives them any chance to making a mark. You don’t really need eleven big-match players. A few big hits by their power-hitters and a few good wicket-taking overs – and who knows? After all, it is the only format in nearly four decades which they have managed to win a World Cup.

Afghanistan is the only team one needs to spare the comparisons. They have played well and beaten their opponents in the phase one and even much before that. It was sad they could not qualify for Asia Cup but even though no one really expects them to do very well facing the big teams, one might just want to watch them cause an upset or two by beating a regular team from their group and throwing open the nominations for the next round open to others.

Having said all that I could for the tournament, we know two things for sure. One is that the result of each match would be like flip of a coin – each team equally likely to win – but the one which does only a few things better, and faster, than the other will finally take the match. The most talented team will not necessarily win each time. And second, it is going to be a hard competition. India are definitely the team to beat, but there are hungry vultures circling overhead. Who will draw first blood?

What will happen? We will see!

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