ICL: Indian Cricket League

Fast and furious


Thirty-two years ago, world cricket entered unknown territory when England hosted the first World Cup in 1975 - the form of the game was called limited-overs internationals, and only 18 such games had ever been played when England and India played the first match of the tournament. On Tuesday, it’s time to set into motion another experiment as South Africa and West Indies kick off the World Twenty20 in a format which is only 16 matches old.

Shortened attention spans, the plethora of entertainment options, and quite simply, the lack of time means everything - even the most laidback of sports - has had to adapt, and over the next 14 days, we’ll see just how successful that adaptation has been on the world stage. Early indications - in the markets where the format has been tried in domestic tournaments - suggests nothing should stop it from being a rocking success: the weather in all venues is expected to be fair, the conditions should be excellent, and the domestic Twenty20 tournaments in South Africa have shown that the people have embraced it completely.

The extraneous factors do make a difference, but ultimately, any tournament needs close games to kick it into life, and the Twenty20 is the perfect format to bridge the gap between the great and the not-so-great teams. Any cricket tournament over the last 15 years of which Australia has been a part has only had one favourite, and while it’s no different this time, the ultra-compressed format allows a much greater chance for one of the others teams to knock them over. The injuries to Michael Clarke (lower abdominal strain), Shane Watson (strained hamstring) and Matthew Hayden (back spasms) might not be serious enough to force them to miss games, but South Africa already gave the Australians an early shake-up in the practice game on Sunday. That could either be a boost to all the other teams in the competition, or, more likely, be just the trigger for Ricky Ponting and co to lift their games a notch.

Omit Australia from the list, and the group of contenders suddenly expands to at least six: South Africa and England have the most experience in the format - and the players to cause plenty of damage - while West Indies, New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka all have the firepower to blow out the opposition if they put it all together for three hours. The format of the tournament means the top should all make it to the next round, but, like in the West Indies, watch out for the group involving Bangladesh. The knockout blow they delivered to India is too recent to forget, and West Indies and South Africa can both do a lot worse than taking them lightly.

It’s still early summer in South Africa, and the nip in the air in the evening could offer the swing bowlers some reason to smile

The hit-or-miss nature of the game suggests little time for strategy, but there’ll be plenty of subplots which could be fascinating. It’s still early summer in South Africa, and the nip in the air in the evening could offer the swing bowlers some reason to smile - the Australians already indicated they were surprised by the swing on offer in the practice game, and that could be a trend, especially in the evening games.

What about the spinners, then? The cool conditions might not be to their liking, but in the domestic tournaments the slow bowlers haven’t been carved about like you’d normally expect. Despite the absence of Muttiah Muralitharan, the spinners are still reasonably well represented - Daniel Vettori, Harbhajan Singh, Brad Hogg and Abdur Razzak are just some of the names who could push up their popularity ratings in this tournament.

The cricket will be the showcase, but there’ll be much more than that on offer on the grounds. A live band practicing on the outfield suggested a loud opening is in store on Tuesday, while cheerleaders were doing their rehearsing act in preparation for all the fours and sixes which will be witnessed over the next couple of weeks.

The organisers have also done their bit to ensure that the crowds flock to the cricket - tickets have been priced for as low as R 20 for some matches (it’s usually between R 40 and R 100), while spectators have been allowed permission to bring in musical instruments to ensure they make themselves heard. “It’s a South African tournament being showcased to the world” is the ICC’s anthem, and the next two weeks will show just how spectacular it turns out to be.

Source:Cricket News

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