Surprising as it might seem, the World T20 has already reached the halfway mark. That it’s sneaked up on us without anyone really noticing is surely a very good thing. Unlike most cricket world cups, this one has careened along at a breakneck pace. We’ve already had a bunch of absolutely classic games – Ireland vs. Zimbabwe, Ireland vs. Netherlands, Sri Lanka vs. South Africa, and South Africa vs. New Zealand – and some great performances from people such as Umar Akmal, Glenn Maxwell, Dale Steyn, Amit Mishra and Danny Morrison. Well, maybe not that last one. To think, we’ve had all this excitement and both Jade Dernabch and Tim Bresnan have yet to bowl a single death over. We’ve got a lot to look forward to still.
A few themes have already cropped up in this tournament, which we think its worthwhile looking over. Thankfully power failures, monsoonal rain and death by overexposure to Gangnam Style are not amongst them.
It’s not terribly surprising that the two best performing teams so far, Sri Lanka and India, also have the best bowling attacks for these conditions. T20 cricket seems to be following in the footsteps of its 50 over big brother; bowlers have never been more vital to restricting the opposition to achievable totals. If the batting side is allowed to set its own pace, it is usually able to set totals beyond what most teams can consistently run down. Particularly in this World Cup so far, where totals north of 170 have proven match winning most of the time, being able to restrict your opponent by taking wickets or drying up the runs (which pretty much equal the same thing) are key.
Having a good bowling attack is probably worth about 30 runs a game, which makes it a far more reliable match winner than hoping your batting attack comes off every single time. Based on what we’ve seen so far, we would back Sri Lanka to defend 140 over Australia chasing down a total of 170 any day.
We cannot remember an international tournament that has exhibited such poor fielding standards right across the board. Sure, watching fielders flounder under the high ball is funny, but when India are being made to look one of the more competent fielding sides out there (Yuvraj Singh excused) things have clearly gone too far. It’s hard to explain why the fielding has been so dire. Even Australia, who barely missed a chance against England and South Africa, were hopeless in their game against Pakistan. You can’t blame the low lights or evening dew either, as that game was played in the afternoon.
So, without any other obvious culprit to blame this dramatic slide in fielding standards on, we are going to do the only reasonable thing. And blame it all on the IPL.
Ireland could have made great strides in this tournaments towards proving that they’re capable of mixing it with the big boys. They started out promisingly too; although their match against Zimbabwe went to the wire, it was a contest they always looked in control of. So much so, that if you didn’t already know the answer, you might have been surprised about which team has Test status and which was the lowly Associate.
But being knocked out by the Dutch didn’t really prove anything either. It was a freak result, but one largely assisted by Ireland’s woefully weak pace bowling attack. But that in itself is a symptom of their best bowlers (yes, even Boyd Rankin) being poached by England, which is something that will continue to happen whilst they lack full Test status. So Ireland are at an impasse. They conceivably can’t get much stronger than they currently are without even more of their better players being nicked by the ECB. The only way out of the situation is seemingly for the ICC to just make Ireland a full Test nation already. Given the state Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are in, that doesn’t seem too far of a stretch. And speaking of Bangladesh…
That Bangladesh are pretty crap isn’t a terribly controversial statement. That a nation that has been a full Test member since 2000 really shouldn’t be losing at home to Hong Kong is equally uncontroversial. Bangladesh are not going to win this tournament. They won’t get anywhere near close to winning it. But the pressure that’s on them from home fans isn’t really helping things either. The deathly silence that accompanies the opposition doing anything remotely noteworthy in their games only serves to emphasise what little Bangladeshi fans have to cheer about in the first place. Rather then intimidate the opposition, the silence only seems to unnerve the home team, increasing the weight of public expectations on a team that has already shown on many occasions that they’re completely hopeless at dealing with it.
Refusing to acknowledge the opposition is par for the course for Asian crowds it seems, but in situations like this it’s not terribly helpful. It’s probably just making matters worse. For the rest of the tournament the fans probably should concentrate on just enjoying themselves. The players might start to find it easier to perform in an environment like that and the fans will probably feel less like they wasted their money bothering to turn up in the first place.
‘Nuff said. They might have fallen at the final hurdle a few times previously, but this Sri Lankan team looks to have a bit more about it.
We will be very surprised if Sri Lanka are not crowned T20 champions at the end of this tournament. Only slightly more surprised than if anyone claims to being able to remember the result a week afterwards.