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T20 World Cup Preview…

A journey to the holy land then… Similar to how Muslims flock to Mecca, Catholics visit Rome, adventure junkies doing crazy stuff in Queenstown and electronic dance music fans (apparently it’s not pc anymore calling them ravers) getting down to Carl Cox at Ibiza, every cricket fan has to ultimately visit the true home of cricket, India. Yes, the game was founded in England, but the passion, flair, energy, tv rights, patriotism shown for this sport in India will be unmatched by any other country playing this sport ever. Apparently, international cricketers rate Bangladesh as a close 2nd in terms of pure passion for the game.

I have watched cricket at Lords, MCG, Auckland, Wanderers and the Kingston Oval (not tooting my horn here) but my upcoming trip to India is definitely one of those bucket list moments.

Friends and other cricket watching buddies around the world are like, Iresh really, I mean really buddy …again? You know they going to choke on the international stage right? They have being doing this for years and there is even a book written about this team, called “the art of losing” (good read btw- I have a copy at home if anyone would like to borrow it). Well maybe they choke again, but in the unlikely event that they don’t, I need to be there to deliver the Heimlich maneuver at any given point during the match when they need this the most. True fans don’t just follow a team when they are champions. That’s what makes a sport an incredible journey, it’s the ride that you go through, the ups and downs, you are inseparable to your team, you will support them to the very end, when they are at their lowest as well as their highest, this is as intense that “until death do us part” vows at a wedding :-)

If any ladies are reading this (other than my biggest fan, my mum, Hi Ma), I suggest dating or marrying a crazy sports fan. Doesn’t matter which sport he loves, it could be hurling for all I care or ultimate frisbee. However, don’t ever, ever compare the love your man has for his team to the love he has for you, cardinal error. It’s a different kind of love. You rather embrace the fact that if he can love so passionately, whole heartedly, deeply and unforgiving to some stupid sports team…imagine how that person could love you in real life!!! (Ps- switch “his” to “her” and vice versa, don’t want the sexist police hunting me down, this is used interchangeable for a passionate woman sports fan).

Okay, sorry about that chick flick rom com moment, so I’ll be at matches at Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi and this may be all I can think about for the next week.  I’m sure the locals will look at me at this brown face and say, who’s this fool? Why is he not responding to me when I ask him a question in Hindi? Why does he have the same bun hairstyle as my granny. Why is he acting so patriotic to South Africa, obviously he visited there and enjoyed the game drive to the Kruger National Park so much and lost a bet with a local Lion that he needs to wear their silly green Proteas gear.

As always, when’s there is a World Cup in Asia, we expect an Asian team to win. SL is in too much of a building phase and Malinga will probably call it quits after the tournament. Bangladesh will come thorough the qualifiers and I expect them to upset a team or two. Pakistan need to just put on 150 on the board and their bowers with re-energized Amir will make it difficult work for the opposition batsmen. At the moment their batsmen can barely put 80 on the board with their top 6. Afridi is class though and will fight to the end in what could be his swansong too.

But India, oh this Indian outfit will be very difficult to beat. With Nehra coming back for one final hoorah, Bumrah being the 2016 pace bowler find in the sport…they have 2 genuine quicks in great form (they did not have this in 2011 when the they won the 50 over world cup purely with the bat)….add in Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja spin trickery and a batting line up that  can put on 200 on the board on any given day…beware!!! It’s their tournament to lose on home soil. Let’s not forget how they smoked Australia down under recently in this format. So much fun to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Indian cricket  fan (I only have one team and one team only) but I just respect good cricket in any format and this is a 20 over format they have mastered. Thank you Modi and thank you IPL. I would even going as far as saying they are in the league of the Windies of the 80’s and Aussies of the 90’s in test cricket but in this shortened format of the game. It may be T20, but it’s more than a hit and giggle affair anymore, I don’t care what my Aussie and English mates say. There are strategies involved in who bowls the 1st 4 overs, who’s bowling at the death, who will bat upfront when the field is in and who will finish when it counts. Not at all comparing this to test cricket, the purist and my favorite format, but T20 needs more recognition than it gets from some corners of the globe.

Moving on to my thoughts of this tourney, personally I don’t see Australia, England and NZ going through to semis. Windies have too many internal politics (what’s new, right?) and the omission of Bravo and especially Narine will hurt as they excel in these IPL conditions.

SA will make a run to the final after beating Pakistan in the semis. AB, Faf and Miller will score bulk of the runs with the bat and Steyn on his return will be excellent with Tahir. However, their lack of true balance and somewhat large tail will have them falling short to India in the final. At the end of the tournament they will regret rotating De Kock and Amla at the top of the order and not picking the 2 Morkel brothers. I still think it’s a joke that Wiese and Berhadien play in this team as our best 11. With these 2 kinks in the armory, I cannot see them lifting the trophy.

In the other semi, I see India beating the inexperienced SL team. Kohli just falling short of a 100 and Jadeja picking up 3 for 20 odd.

Eventually in the end, India will go on to lift their 2nd World Cup at home in 5 years. Only 2 teams or maybe I should say 2 people can stop them. If Pakistan batsmen fire and Amir is on song, the dream will be over for local fans. However he has only 24 legitimate deliveries to do make his magic work. Hence, a thrump card in the form of a batsman, like a AB, Kohli, Gayle, Warner, etc can have more direct effect on the outcome of these 20 over matches.

Is he the most destructive batsman in the world?

Is he the most destructive batsman in the world?

Conversely, if AB, India’s most loved non subcontinent player after my childhood hero Jonty Rhodes, gets in on one of those Wanderers moods, moving his feet in that box (please watch his trigger movements),  the Proteas are gonna fly like a butterfly and sting like AB. He can bat easily 70balls as he opens and that could return some 120 runs for him alone on this day!

If I’m a betting man, which I am, smart money is on India at 2-1, but of course I bet on the outsider South Africa. If you are that outsider punter at the race course and looking for that horse that can sh*t the bed or win by 5 lengths and the jockey doesn’t know which horse will rock up on race day, go Pakistan at 7-1.

Let the games begin…#BleedGreenProteaFire

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One Response to "T20 World Cup Preview…"
  1. Reply Vanitha March 9, 2016 02:08 am

    Great article Iri,I can only imagine how excited you must be,your first T20 World Cup.Enjoy the trip and the cricket,will be watching the screen trying to get a glimpse of you,knowing how cricket crazy you are! Enjoy,lots of love.mum.