World Twenty20 Men’s Cricket Championships: Overview
The World Twenty20 Cricket Championships began this week in Sri Lanka. The tournament is now held every two years and brings together the top batsmen and bowlers from around the globe to compete for supremacy in one of the world’s most popular sports. Cricket has seen a recent spike in popularity in Canada as immigration from countries such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka has brought many fans of the sport to our nation. Cricket is following in the footsteps of soccer and rugby as sports that used to be popular everywhere but North America and are now hitting their stride here. Though Canada has never qualified for the relatively new tournament (est. 2007 in South Africa), their appearance in the 2011 World Cup demonstrates that Canadians can hold their own on the cricket pitch and it should only be a matter of time before they become a staple in the event.
This year’s tournament, though without Canuck representation, features 12 eager nations in 4 groups of three teams. 2 teams from each group will go to the super eight stage where 2 groups of 4 teams each will be formed and the top two from each group will move to the semi-finals. The winners of the semi-finals will play each other for the trophy. Now for those not familiar with Twenty20, this is the format used by the Indian Premiere League (IPL), which is broadcast around the world and is arguably the planet’s top cricket league as many IPL players make salaries comparable to some of the world’s top soccer players.
Unlike test cricket, where a team bats until 10 of their 11 batters are retired, Twenty20 limits the number of balls bowled to a batting team. 6 balls make up an “over” and each batting team is allotted 20 “overs”, hence the name Twenty20. The reason for this format is that in a test cricket format, matches will last multiple days and holding a tournament this size in test cricket would take way too long so the Twenty20 form lends itself to matches completed in similar time as most other sports. One team bats first, completes their 20 overs and then the other team will bat and attempt to score more runs in 20 overs than their opponent. If 10 batsmen are retired before the team completes their overs then they are deemed to be “all-out” and can no longer bat.
So who are the favorites this year? Many are picking the host nation Sri Lanka to capture the title as they were the finalists from the 2011 World Cup losing a very close match to India; they have many young talented players held together by captain, Mahela Jayawardene, one of the most respected cricketers in the world. The question will be: can the young and talented Sri Lankans hold up under the pressure and use the crowd to their advantage? The Sri Lankans are currently cruising through the group stage, embarrassing the grossly outmatched Zimbabwe. A big test for them will be their other group match with a strong South African squad that is ready to shake off the criticism from those who see them as the team which is always expected to do well but can never win the big match.
2011 World Cup champions, India will look to add another trophy to their case and are matched up with defending World Champions England, as well as a very stubborn Afghanistand who in their opening match took India to the limit in a close loss. England have lost some of their top players since 2010 and are notorious for not faring well in Asian weather conditions. India should emerge atop this group and a possible upset could be in the making as Afghanistan may sneak past the English into the second spot. The Afghanis will need to tighten up their defence as it was fielding that many have blamed for their loss to India.
Australia and Ireland came into the tournament close together in the world rankings. Australia is trying to climb back up to where they are used to sitting, and Ireland is putting together a fairly impressive string of upsets - so, the fact that they wound up in the same group proved to make things fairly exciting. In their opening match the Aussies handled the Irish which all but solidified a spot in the next round.
As for the West Indies, they are favored to go far and should take the group and likely move to the semi-finals. They lost a warm-up match to Sri Lanka but they did not field their top team in that match.
New Zealand, Bangladesh and Pakistan make up a group that could see an upset or two. Pakistan has the credentials and conditions on their side and are favored to take the group. New Zealand, however, always give their opponents a hard time and have two of the top ranked batsmen in the world in Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill. Bangladesh have also performed very well in Twenty20 so this group will be fun to follow. I’d like to see New Zealand put their strong pieces together and go on a run. Friday’s match between Bangladesh and New Zealand will be a war and the loser may find themselves on the outside looking in.
It has been said that of the 12 teams in this tournament, as many as 9 could come out on top. The field is very wide open, which is the best formula for an exciting few weeks of cricket and the format lends itself to an underdog having a great day and taking out a powerhouse. I’ll be checking it out as much as I can and I hope you will too.