India looms large for Proteas
Johannesburg – Quality and not quantity.
That is what is being strived for in the International Cricket Council’s World Twenty20 tournament that starts in the West Indies on Friday.
After the Indian Premier League (IPL) was shoved down our throats for the last month-and-a-half, this tournament will hopefully be refreshing.
To have teams such as Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Ireland in the tournament adds to its romanticism.
The nature of this form of the game is such that any of the teams can upset one of the bigger ones. Zimbabwe already proved that by beating Australia in a warm-up game.
Two of the dangerous dark horses – Sri Lank and New Zealand – square up in the opening game on Friday. After that the Windies take on Ireland in a double header in Guyana.
South Africa are in Group C with India and Afghanistan. If Graeme Smith’s side loses against India in St Lucia on Sunday, the pressure will be on them to beat unknown quantity Afghanistan on Wednesday.
Smith has been quoted as saying: “With everything the Afghans have had to endure just to be able to play cricket and stay alive, the sight of Dale Steyn charging in won’t frighten the batsmen.”
However, most of the top sides should qualify for the Super Eight phase of the tournament. It’s then that the competition will be intense.
South Africa have the best performance record of all the teams in the short history of the tournament, but that does not say much.
Both previous tournaments were won by teams (India and Pakistan) that were not considered favourites.
Australia cannot be written off in spite of their humble performance record.
Any team that has big hitters such as David Warner, Cameron White, Brad Haddin, Hussey-brothers Mike and David, and Shane Watson, and a bowling attack with Mitchell Johnson, Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait and Ryan Harris, has to be considered contenders for the sought-after title.
The Windies themselves can be viewed as contenders with the explosiveness of Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo in their ranks.
The support at home can be a help or burden of pressure for the Windies.