Pakistan’s position of sixth in the ICC rankings is completely indicative of the current state of the team, in that they have an alarming tendency to blow either hot or cold, largely depending on the condition of the pitch they are faced with. On slow turning wickets they are nigh on unbeatable owing to their peerless spin attack, led by Saeed Ajmal. On flat, batter-friendly pitches they are liable to be blown out of the park.
In Sri Lanka, though, where slow pitches are expected to dominate, Pakistan have a good chance of capturing their second World T20 title. As both Australian and English batsmen can confirm, when he is in his element Saeed Ajaml is almost unplayable. Not that either team has a terribly good record against spin it must be said. His support crew of Mohammed Hafeez, Sohail Tanvir and Umar Gul are handy options as well. With the bat things are less rosy, but Nasir Jamshed hit the ground running after making his debut in the recently concluded series against Australia.
To win the World Cup, though, you typically need something different, an option to fall back on when Plan A fails. Unfortunately for Pakistan their Plan B is Shahid Afridi. Boom Boom has been a waning force in international cricket for some time now, and his ‘eccentric’ batting appears more of a liability than anything these days. Likewise his bowling is lacking in venom, particularly since everyone and their dog can now see his faster ball from a mile off.
Expect Pakistan to be in the mix right to the end. Either that or be bundled out in the group stages. Neither outcome would really surprise.
It’s hard not to be condescending when it comes to the Kiwis. Phrases such as ‘plucky’ and ‘dogged’ immediately come to mind. They have an impressive record of overperforming in international tournaments, ‘till they are eventually found out and sent home after being hammered. So as unwise as it would appear to be to bet against the Kiwis likewise confounding expectations in this tournament, our prediction is that they won’t amount to very much here.
The main problem with the Kiwis is the lack of star quality in their lineup, meaning they are largely reliant on their opposition beating themselves, such as India did last week. When Brendon McCullum is your main attacking threat, you know you have problems. Batsmen like Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson are certainly threatening, but neither are likely to cause any real fears in opposition bowling attacks.
Similarly their bowling attack is hardly earth-shattering. Doug Bracewell and Tim Southee are handy bowlers to have around, particularly with the latter being in form, but neither can be expected to carry the attack on their own. Considering they are surrounded largely by bits and piece players, that is a real concern. On that topic, it’s a sad fact that Dan Vettori is something of a faded force as far as his bowling is concerned. Considering that he will be the Kiwis main spinning option in a tournament where spin is predicated to dominate, that does not bode well.
The Kiwis have never failed to make it out of their group in a T20 World Cup. There is a first time for everything.
On paper at least, Bangladesh has a lot going in its favor at this tournament. They are able to avoid the sort of pressure brought about by playing in front of home crowds that saw them capitulate in last year’s ODI World Cup, yet get to play on surfaces that will be immediately familiar. They are in form, as a recent European tour indicated. And they possess in players like Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal the quality to mix it with the big guns. They even have in their favor being drawn in one of the weaker groups (all offence intended to our Kiwi readers).
After their impressive performance in this year’s Asian Cup, this tournament is nicely set up for Bangladesh to make another statement of intent on the international stage. Of course, they will probably somehow conspire to stuff it up somehow, probably by being confounded by James Franklin’s express pace in the group phase. But the stage is perfectly set for Bangladesh to win their first game at a T20 World Cup since the 2007 iteration, and make it out of their group.