For cricket fanatics like myself, the countdown has well and truly begun to October this year when the T20 World Cup gets underway Down Under. It has been four years since the Carlos Brathwaite inspired West Indies clinched their second T20 World Cup title in a tense final at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
So now the attention turns to who will hold the trophy aloft on the 15th of November at the MCG? With 240 players, 16 teams and 1 dream, let the extravaganza begin…
Players to Watch
Virat Kohli: Perhaps the Don Bradman of this current generation. Kohli is a master of chases who seems to regain his form every time he steps out for India. He has a knack of scoring runs Down Under and seems to thrive on the big stage.
Rashid Khan: This Afghani spinner has taken the cricketing world by storm over the past three years. His guile and variations make him one of the toughest bowlers to face. Being the top ranked ODI bowler a few months ago, Afghanistan’s expectations will rest firmly on his shoulders. Bowling in tandem with his spin twin, Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman, rest assured that he will be amongst the leading wicket-takers come the end of the tournament.
Jasprit Bumrah: Prior to his meteoric rise over the previous three years, India had struggled finding a death bowler who could consistently deliver toe-crushing yorkers to wrap up the innings. His uncanny ability to bowl yorkers at ease whilst also being a potent threat with the new ball will make him the trump-card for Kohli and his troops.
Steven Smith: He has been on an unprecedented roller coaster over the past two years. The peaks and troughs of life and the game of cricket have not been as clear to anyone else. From the depths of what I call “sandpapergate” at Newlands nearly two years ago and then a suspension spanning over a year, to singlehandedly stunning the English during the Ashes this past summer: It’s safe to say that Smith has seen it all. Following silencing his critics during the Ashes, its time that we admire his artistry with the willow. He will be determined to score heavily to hand Australia its elusive World T20 title.
AB De Villiers: Will he be back? Will South Africa encourage him to come out of retirement? His countrymen aren’t having the best of times on the field and his return could just give them the revival they’ve been craving. One of the cleanest ball strikers around, the World T20 extravaganza would be a dozen times better with the return of the one and only ABD.
The Dark-Horse Team
Afghanistan: A side with a great blend of youth and experience. They have punched above their weight in international cricket over the past three years and pose a threat to each and every side they face. With mystery spinners in the form of Mujeeb Ur-Rahman and Rashid Khan, aggressive openers in Zazai and Shahzad and an experienced all-rounder in the form of Nabi, Afghanistan have the ingredients for a memorable campaign.
Australia: Boosted by the return of Steven Smith and David Warner last year, the dark days of Australian Cricket following the ball tampering incident in South Africa seem to be behind them. They have been clinical as of late, winning the Ashes in England and white washing the likes of New Zealand and Pakistan at home. Moreover, they trounced Sri Lanka in three T20s. It’s safe to say that Australia haven’t looked as dangerous going into a World T20 before. For a country that has 5 ICC Cricket World Cups under its belt, they are not one to bet against winning their first World T20 with the added aid of home nation advantage.
India: A side that personifies consistency. Virat Kohli and his side look well poised to go all the way this year. With arguably the most destructive batsman and death bowler in the game, in the form of Kohli and Bumrah respectively, one billion hearts will beat in unison and with great expectations as India seek world honours.
England: The reigning ICC World Cup Champions. Eoin Morgan and his men will be hoping to carry the momentum from last summer as they head Down Under. They are likely for a replica of last summer’s performance from the likes of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Jason Roy.
My Semi-finalsts Predictions
Sri Lanka: Another left field, albeit biased, pick. This may seem a tad ambitious seeing that Sri Lanka will have to start their campaign in the qualifiers. However, following a comprehensive drubbing of the West Indies at home and with Mickey Arthur, Grant Flower and others slowly instilling much needed discipline and a vision in the side, Malinga and company are not to be taken lightly. This could be the swansong of Malinga’s career and with the backing of the Sri Lanka-Aussie faithful, which makes a match at the MCG seem like a home game at the R.Premadasa, many would hope to see the best of Lasith. The patriot in me dares to believe…
Whatever the outcome, the T20 extravaganza beckons. Who will clinch the title? Enjoy the cricketing action…