As things stand now, the World T20 2016 being staged in India has crossed the half way mark and the tournament is nearing the business end. In both the groups, two teams – New Zealand and West Indies – have already progressed to the semi-finals by virtue of their performances. The situation of few others is tense. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan have already been knocked out of the tournament and South Africa is in the tournament only theoretically. In one group, England and Sri Lanka are both in with a chance and in the other group India and Australia are going to play a knock out game at Mohali on Sunday (27 March), which will basically determine which team progresses to the semis from that round. So far, four teams have looked like that they mean business – West Indies, New Zealand, India and Australia.
West Indies has always been a good team in this format and this time around too the team has been performing rather well. The batting has been led by the likes of Gayle, Andre Fletcher, and Marlon Samuels. On the bowling front, Dwayne Bravo has performed well as expected with 6 wickets so far and has been backed up by the likes of Andre Russell (5 wickets), and Samuel Badree (3 wickets). The biggest advantage of the team is that almost all the players are experienced – they play in the big-ticket T20 leagues around the world such as IPL, BBL (Big Bash League, held in Australia), PSL (Pakistan Super League), CPL (Caribbean Premier League), BPL (Bangladesh Premier League), Ram Slam T20 (played in South Africa), and NatWest T20 Blast (played in England). They are also making that experience count. Their quality can be understood from the way the team has covered up for the likes of Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine. The team has won the 2012 edition and went to the semis in 2014. Hence it has the knowledge to perform on the big stage.
Before the tournament started, Martin Crowe, the legendary Kiwi cricketer and cricket innovator lost his life to lymphoma cancer. He was very close to Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor and a father figure to the entire team. Also Brendon McCullum, the inspirational captain and trailblazer extraordinaire had called it quits because his body was unable to cope with the pressures of international cricket. So, the team was not in a good position when it got into the tournament. However, it has used these setbacks to perform exceptionally better than what was expected of it. The team selection was really good keeping the spinning conditions in mind and that has paid off really well. Mitchell Santner (8 wickets) has led the show with able support from Ish Sodhi (5 wickets), Adam Milne (3 wickets), and Mitchell McClenaghan (3 wickets) and bowling has been the team’s main area of strength. Both Guptill and Taylor have scored runs for the Kiwis along with Corey Anderson. It has been an all-round show so far from the team, the hallmark of championship contenders. One thing can be said for sure – if the team finally wins the tournament it would have paid the ideal tribute to Martin Crowe.
The way MS Dhoni ran Mustafizur Rahman out at the crunch game spoke a lot about how the team in general is looking forward to add to its international silverware. Overall the team has not scored the big runs that are expected of it because of the slow and turning wickets, which have inhibited strokemakers such as Rohit Sharma. Virat Kohli has been the usual suspect with contributions in all the games along with the skipper who has made his usual contributions down the order. However, the Indian bowling unit has really come to the fore with Jadeja (4 wickets), Raina (3 wickets), Ashwin (3 wickets), Pandya (3 wickets), and Nehra (3 wickets) all making timely contributions to help the team’s cause. What has further helped the team is its momentum coming into the tournament – it won all the games in Australia and at the Asia Cup and lost only one game against Sri Lanka on a green top at Pune. In the World Cup too barring the indifferent and poor display against New Zealand it has shown remarkable composure in the crunch games against neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Australia has never really had a good record in T20 internationals. The best it has ever performed is the 2010 edition when it went to the finals. In this tournament too they have got off to a bad start with a loss to New Zealand followed by a close win against Bangladesh and a dominant win against Pakistan. So far, the batting department has performed a tad better with Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, and Shane Watson (who has announced his international retirement). In the bowling stakes James Faulkner (7 wickets), Adam Zampa (5 wickets), and Shane Watson (3 wickets) have been the main performers.
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