West Indies can pull it off!
Twenty20s are not unlike Tests, except that games are played at a much more frenetic pace, with much shorter time to think, even much less time to execute.
However, that old adage still exists: “The race is not given to the swift but to those who endure to the end!”
Already, cricket luminaries, such as India’s most successful captain, Sourav Ganguly, with vast experience in T-20 cricket – 77 games for Kolkata Knight Riders, Lancashire CCC and Pune Warriors – has called West Indies “favourites” to win the 2012 ICC World Twenty20. But could that become reality?
Massive favourite at the London 2012 Paralympics, South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, “Blade Runner”, lost the T-44 200 metres race when he was odds-on to win. Indeed, in one heat, he established a new world record, 21.30 seconds. Yet, when it counted most, in the final, he did not win.
Despite useless noises over the last few decades, West Indies have won only three world limited overs championships since one-day competition was introduced in 1970-71.
With easily the best team in that first competition, West Indies won 1975’s ICC inaugural 50-overs World Cup. With an even better team, we repeated, winning the 1979 World Cup.
For 1983, however, as even more overwhelming favourites than in the previous two competitions and expected by all opponents to “three-peat”, West Indies faltered badly at the final fence, to unfavoured India.
Cricket games are not played on paper. Favourites do not always win.
West Indies’ last international limited overs success was September 25, 2004, such ancient days now. Our representatives, highly unfancied and not expected to progress, beat England, that competition’s favourites, thus winning the Champions Trophy.
For the 2012 World Twenty20, on paper, with extensive contracts and experiences, West Indies sound like a good unit, but it should be noted that every cricket game is played in the head and on the field.
Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, Samuel Badree, Darren Bravo, Johnson Charles, Fidel Edwards, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons and Dwayne Smith seem a good combination of youth and experience. Can they win?
Yes, West Indies certainly can win at Sri Lanka 2012. Will they win, is a very different matter.
The hosts will be a tremendous handful. Unlike West Indies, who failed to take advantage of known home conditions in the 2007 World Cup, and World Twenty20 in 2010, in the Caribbean, failing to even get to semi-finals in either, expect the Tigers to shine at home.
Captain Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews, Tilikeratene Dilshan, all-rounder extraordinaire Kumar Sangakkara, with returning mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, would be looking to avenge 2010!
Sri Lanka were one of the semi-finalists in 2010. The others were England, the eventual winner, Australia, the favourites back then, whom England surprisingly beat in the final, and that other world cricket enigma, Pakistan. Any of these four can also win this year.
England’s 2010 captain, Paul Collingwood, has retired from international cricket, while Kevin Pietersen’s present impasse with England and Wales Cricket Board will take more than just words to correct.
However, England are defending champions. Most of that 2010 winning team is still intact. Now led by tenacious bowling all-rounder Stuart Broad, England, ranked No. 2 by ICC, will take some beating.
Australia are so competitive at sports that their teams are always threats, even if playing beach hopscotch. Venerable wicket-keeper Brad Haddin has gone, but another veteran, Michael Hussey, remains.
Returning 2010 captain Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, David Warner and David Hussey certainly augment this team well. Australia are ranked No. 9 by ICC on paper, but cricket is played on a park.
If Pakistan were to play with cohesion, normal ability and mercurial nature, they could win regularly. No one expected that 1992 ICC World Cup win, even beating New Zealand in their own backyard. Present captain Mohammad Haffez, Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi will do their best to repeat here.
South Africa hold the ICC’s No. 1 Twenty20 ranking. They deserve it, but captain A.B. de Villers, indomitable Hashim Amla, J.P. Duminy, almost indestructible Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and his young understudy, Wayne Parnell, would certainly have knowledge of only one other thing remaining on their minds.
Ranking is one thing; winning a world event is quite another. Having never won any ICC world competitions while being favourites to win a few, the Proteas will be shooting to correct.
M.S. Dhoni’s India is another team that could surprise here. Almost all grizzled veterans, Gautam Gambhir, Harbajan Singh, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan will want to end their careers in glory.
No. 5 rated West Indies can win ICC World Twenty20 2012, but will have to survive to beat all other teams. Enjoy!
• Colin Croft is a former West Indies fast bowler who now writes and broadcasts on the game.