t20

Observing the field: The top contenders at the ICC T20 World Cup

(by Mark McGowan)

Over the next few days, sixteen teams will compete for bragging rights of being the best T20 team in the world. The ICC World T20 tournament has been held four times and has produced four different winners:  India (2007), Pakistan (2009), England (2010) and the West Indies (2012).

The 2014 tournament kicks off at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur Bangladesh on March 16 and concludes on April 6.  Apart from the usual Test playing nations the tournament will also feature Zimbabwe, Ireland, Afghanistan, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates

Insight offers a preview of the leading teams in this widely open tournament where a winner is difficult to predict.

1. Australia’s squad:

  •  George Bailey (c)
  •  Daniel Christian
  •  Nathan Coulter-Nile
  •  James Faulkner
  •  Aaron Finch
  •  Brad Haddin (wk)
  •  Brad Hodge
  •  Brad Hogg
  •  Mitchell Johnson
  •  Glenn Maxwell
  •  James Muirhead
  •  Mitchell Starc
  •  David Warner
  • Shane Watson
  •  Cameron White

T20s have not been Australia’s favourite format and this is reflected in the fact that they have never won this tournament. But this time the Aussies will be entering the tournament as one of the favourites.  Capturing the crown would seal what has been a tremendous turnaround in the fortunes of the Aussies over the last few months. Since losing the Ashes to England, last August, the Aussies are a far different team, evident by their recent triumphs over England and South Africa.

Strength

Form and confidence

Australia has returned to its winning ways making it a habit.  A team high on both confidence and form should go a far way.

Weakness

Suitability of attack for conditions.

How will the much vaunted Aussie pace attack, which includes the likes of Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Shane Watson, cope on the generally flat and spinner-friendly pitches they will most likely encounter?  If the pitches neutralize the impact of their fast men, the Aussies are likely to find the going rough.

Key player

David Warner

As one of the most explosive batsmen and openers in world cricket, Warner’s role will be to get the Aussies off to some flyers. If he gets going, the Aussies have a batting line up of powerful hitters that could see them posting big totals.

2. Bangladesh’s squad

  • Mushfiqur Rahim (c/wk)
  • Sohag Gazi
  • Al-Amin Hossain
  • Anamul Haque
  • Mominul Haque
  • Shakib Al Hasan
  • Nasir Hossain
  • Rubel Hossain
  • Tamim Iqbal
  • Mahmudullah
  • Mashrafe Mortaza
  • Abdur Razzak
  • Farhad Reza
  • Sabbir Rahman
  • Shamsur Rahman

The Tigers will be playing in front a home crowd which will be fully behind them. But this talented team has the difficult challenge of having to consistently produce their best cricket in order to defeat better teams.

Strength

Spin attack

They have a strong and diverse spin attack which should be ideal for the spin-friendly wickets in Bangladesh.

Weakness

Unreliable batting

While not short of talented and audacious batsmen, Bangladesh’s batting line up is unreliable and is capable of imploding even in the face of modest targets.

Key player

Shakib Al Hasan

As one of the leading allrounders in the game, he is by far their best player. If Bangladesh is to upset the more favoured teams, it is highly likely that he will have to play a key role with both bat and ball.

3. England’s squad

  • Stuart Broad (c)
  • Moeen Ali
  • Ian Bell
  • Ravi Bopara
  • Tim Bresnan
  • Jos Buttler (wk)
  • Jade Dernbach
  • Alex Hales
  • Chris Jordan
  • Michael Lumb
  • Eoin Morgan
  • Stephen Parry
  • Ben Stokes
  • James Tredwell
  • Luke Wright

Can an English team without the destructive Kevin Pietersen be a serious contender for the title?  Can this relatively inexperienced line up upset the more experienced and better equipped teams to recapture the crown it won in 2010? Only time will tell.

Strength

Talented young players

The team consists of several young and talented players, including Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Stephen Parry and Chris Jordan who will be eager to showcase to the world that they belong at this level.

Weakness

Tackling Spin

The English batsmen have developed a deserving reputation of being poor players of quality spin. This could very well be their Achilles’ heel on pitches which are expected to be helpful to spinners.

Key player

Ravi Bopara.

England tends to use him in the role of finisher in their batting line up, but he may be of better use higher up the order. This is where he stands a better chance of building an innings, thereby creating the platform for batsmen like Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler to finish.  He may also contribute useful overs with his bowling.

4. India’s squad

  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c/wk)
  • Ajinkya Rahane
  • Amit Mishra
  • Bhuvneshwar Kumar
  • Mohammed Shami
  • Mohit Sharma
  • Ravichandran Ashwin
  • Ravindra Jadeja
  • Rohit Sharma
  • Shikhar Dhawan
  • Stuart Binny
  • Suresh Raina
  • Virat Kohli
  • Varun Aaron
  • Yuvraj Singh

Which India will show up for this World Cup? Will it be the India that puts even the strongest teams to the sword or will it be the India which could so easily self-destruct? Again, time will tell, but it is safe to say that India enter the tournament as one of the teams to watch.

Strength

Batting

India possesses an outstanding batting line up with several match winners. The team is also led by M.S. Dhoni, who remains one of the best and calmest captains in world cricket today.

Weakness

Death Bowling.

India’s bowling attack is their biggest worry especially at the end of the innings. While Ashwin, Mishra and Jadeja are competent spinners it is their faster men that have tended to disappoint in recent times.

Key player

Virat Kohli.

Not only is he one of the best batsmen in the world right now, but he’s also a big-match player. Kohli has made a habit of spearheading many of India’s successful attempts at chasing down huge totals.

5. New Zealand’s squad:

  • Brendon McCullum (c)
  • Corey Anderson
  • Trent Boult
  • Anton Devcich
  • Martin Guptill
  • Ronnie Hira
  • Mitchell McClenaghan
  • Nathan McCullum
  • Kyle Mills
  • Colin Munro
  • Jimmy Neesham
  • Luke Ronchi (wk)
  • Tim Southee
  • Ross Taylor
  • Kane Williamson

If there is one team which consistently punches above its weight in Cricket World Cups, it is New Zealand, and don’t be surprised if they do it once again. New Zealand has been playing good cricket recently and will be entering the tournament with some momentum.

Strength

Batting

New Zeeland has a formidable batting line up with some explosive hitters, including Mc Cullum, Guptill, Taylor,Anderson and Neesham.

Weakness

The bowling attack and the conditions.

Will the conditions in Bangladesh be favourable to the bowling attack of the Kiwis, who traditionally favour swing and seam?

Key player

Brendon McCullum

New Zealand would have welcomed Mc Cullum’s recent return to form as he is such an important batsman to the team. Known for his ultra-aggressive batting, Mc Cullum can take apart the best bowling attacks and his team will be looking to him to add to his tally of T20 tons. His captaincy will also be crucial to New Zealand’s fortunes.

6. Pakistan’s squad:

  • Mohammad Hafeez (c)
  • Ahmed Shehzad
  • Bilawal Bhatti
  • Junaid Khan
  • Kamran Akmal (wk)
  • Mohammad Talha
  • Saeed Ajmal
  • Shahid Afridi
  • Sharjeel Khan
  • Shoaib Malik
  • Sohaib Maqsood
  • Sohail Tanvir
  • Umar Akmal (wk)
  • Umar Gul
  • Zulfiqar Babar

pak

It would be totally foolish to count Pakistan out of any cricket World Cup, especially one being played in conditions that suit their style of play. They also possess several players capable of game-changing performances.

Strength

Bowling attack

Pakistan, arguably, has the most balanced bowling attack in world cricket. There is no obvious weak link in this attack which includes Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi etc.

Weakness

Inconsistent batting.

Pakistan’s batting is constantly plagued by that disease called ‘inconsistency’.

Key Player

‘Boom Boom’ Afridi.

Given his recent heroics in the Asia Cup, Pakistan will be hoping that Afridi will be able to bring his ‘A’ game in all three departments.  Surely, he is a match-winner with the bat, ball or in the field.

7. South Africa’s squad:

  • Faf du Plessis (c)
  • Lonwabo Tsotsobe
  • Hashim Amla
  • Farhaan Behardien
  • Quinton de Kock (wk)
  • AB de Villiers
  • Jean-Paul Duminy
  • Beuran Hendricks
  • Imran Tahir
  • David Miller
  • Albie Morkel
  • Morne Morkel
  • Wayne Parnell
  • Aaron Phangiso
  • Dale Steyn

South Africa will once more enter a Cricket World Cup tagged as one of the favourites. But will this be the tournament where this immensely gifted cricketing nation is able to capture the big prize?

Strength

Balance

On paper, South Africa appears to be a well-balanced side with outstanding batsmen, bowlers and fielders. Even in the absence of the now retired Jacques Kallis, South Africa has an imposing line up.

Weakness

Nerves

The mental hurdles that have led to them ‘choking’ several times before at these global tournaments will have to be conquered if South Africa is to emerge victorious.

Key player

AB de Villers.

Few batsmen in world cricket are as ingenious as AB de Villers.  South Africa will need him to come to the party with his fearless batting and energy in the field. He may be asked to double as wicketkeeper, which increases his importance to the team.

8. Sri Lanka’s squad

  • Dinesh Chandimal (c)
  • Chathuranga de Silva
  • Tillakaratne Dilshan
  • Rangana Herath
  • Mahela Jayawardene
  • Nuwan Kulasekara
  • Suranga Lakmal
  • Lasith Malinga
  • Angelo Mathews
  • Ajantha Mendis
  • Kusal Perera
  • Thisara Perera
  • Seekkuge Prasanna
  • Kumar Sangakkara (wk)
  • Sachithra Senanayake
  • Lahiru Thirimanne

As the number one ranked T20 team in the World, Sri Lanka may just be the favourites going into this competition- and, perhaps, rightly so. Given the balance between youth and experience, they appear to be a settled team with several match winning players.

Strength

Balance

With a strong batting line up and a vastly experienced and diverse bowling attack, Sri Lanka, on paper, has one of the most balanced teams in the tournament.

Weakness

The runner up syndrome.

Sri Lanka has somehow developed the unkind trend of being losing finalists. They entered the finals of the 2009 and 2012 tournaments as favourites and failed to capture the crown. Chokers perhaps?

Key player

Lasith Malinga

As always, Sri Lanka will look to Malinga to work his magic with the ball. He will be eager to make amends for his poor performance in the 2014 finals where Marlon Samuels took his bowling apart, leaving him with the unflattering figures of 4-0-54-0.

9. West Indies’ squad

  • Darren Sammy (c)
  • Samuel Badree
  • Dwayne Bravo
  • Johnson Charles
  • Sheldon Cottrell
  • Andre Fletcher
  • Chris Gayle
  • Sunil Narine
  • Denesh Ramdin (wk)
  • Ravi Rampaul
  • Andre Russell
  • Marlon Samuels
  • Krishmar Santokie
  • Lendl Simmons
  • Dwayne Smith

The West Indies entered the 2012 tournament as favourites and came out victorious. Things are a bit different this time around, as the West Indies have been woefully inconsistent in T20s over the past year. However, several players from the victorious 2012 squad have returned which could be a huge advantage.

Strength

Six hitters

Even in the absence of the injured Kieron Pollard, WI still possess some of the most fearsome strikers of the ball in all of world cricket. Gayle, Smith, Samuels, Simmons, Bravo, Sammy, Russell are all known for their six hitting abilities. With such a batting line up no score should be beyond them.

Weakness

Inconsistency

The West Indies have repeatedly shown that they can be as woeful one day as they are excellent the next. It was this inconsistency that almost cost them a place in the semi-finals during the previous tournament which they went on to win.

Sunil Narine

Key player

Sunil Narine.

The relative success of West Indies in T20s has as much to do with the emergence of this ‘mystery bowler’ as it has to do with the team’s powerful batting line up. Narine is the top-ranked T20 bowler and how he performs with the ball will be one of the keys to the fortunes of his team.

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