T20 World Cup begins

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Updated: September 18, 2012

For the next three weeks, cricket’s global superstars will be involved in a frenetic activity throwing their bats around anything that is hurled at them.

The bigger the hits, the better the results. But will it be just about batsmen and the distances they clear when the World Twenty20 Championship gets underway in Sri Lanka on Tuesday?

The answer is yes and no. Confused? Well, the nature of the format is such that it thrives on unpredictability. Besides, the talk of the tournament has been about the change in character of the pitches that will be rolled out.

The placid rectangles have made way to sporting tracks which means it will not be just spinners but the pacers too who will have a say.

Teams with strong pace attacks are sporting a smile and it’s a level playing field out there. Subcontinent teams, including Pakistan and hosts Sri Lanka, are jostling for the favourites tag with Australia, South Africa and defending champions England.

For sheer quality and variety in bowling, Pakistan nose ahead because in Umar Gul, who topped the bowling charts in the 2007 and 2009 World Twenty20, Sohail Tanvir and Mohammad Sami, they have a quality pace attack backed up by the world’s best spinner across all formats, Saeed Ajmal. Shahid Afridi’s leg-spin adds another dimension which ensures they are lethal on any surface.

Small wonder then that they remain the only team to have made the semi-final cut in all there championships. Twice they made it to the final emerging triumphant once in 2009.

Despite Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Malik and all-rounders Afridi and Abdul Razzaq, their batting lacks consistency.

It is here that Australia rise above the rest of the field. An explosive opening pair in Shane Watson and David Warner is followed by the experience of the Hussey brothers – Michael and David – and Glenn Maxwell to make a formidable batting line-up.

Young pacers Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc give them another headstart, not to forget the guile of left-arm spinner and oldest player of the championship Brad Hogg.

The Aussies though will have to first lock horns with an indimidating bunch from the Caribbean Islands in the group stage.

There has never been such wide interest in a West Indies team and many believe they have the potential to regain their lost glory. Opener Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Marlon Samuels, all-rounders Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo power-pack the batting while pacers Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul and talented spinner Sunil Narine complete a crack outfit.

South Africa are loaded with experience in the batting line-up which includes Hashim Amla, captain AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis and Jean-Paul Duminy. A pace attack spearheaded by Dale Steyn adds steel, but they lack class in the spin department. They look good to last the distance – or the chokers tag will stick.

Sri Lanka have the tendency to do well in global events and being hosts gives them an additional advantage. Experienced hands Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillekaratne Dilshan power their batting and even if their bowling does not appear strong in comparison, they will be quite a force since they know the conditions best.

India are another team which know the conditions well in Sri Lanka since they are regular visitors to the island nation every year. But despite possessing a strong batting line-up, it appears wobbly as only Virat Kohli has looked confident in the build-up. Their bowling attack is probably the weakest in the competition. MS Dhoni and Co will have to draw upon all their experience if they are to make an impact.

Shaping up nicely though are England, who derive their strength from a young, talented bunch led by all-rounder Stuart Broad. The absence of Kevin Pietersen will test their batting, especially against spin.

New Zealand look good to make it to the Super Eights. But from there on it would require some really superhuman effort if they are to make the last four.

Bangladesh, in their group, have the potential to cause a shock. Ireland rank high among the minnows, but Afghanistan and Zimbabwe will have to provide something special if they are to shine in their moment in the spotlight.