20 Pointers to the World Twenty20
As England launch their warm-up campaign in Barbados, here's your guide to the global jamboree
1 The next few weeks will see a constant diet of Twenty20, which will make its domination seem complete. England play three matches in West Indies as preparation for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh from next Sunday. That is followed by the Indian Premier League.
2 There remains a mixed attitude to the format. The World Twenty20 has been hugely successful since its inaugural tournament in 2007, won thrillingly by India. That made its name, spawned various domestic competitions, but the appetite for international T20 between world championships is quite limited.
3 Like so much of global sport Twenty20 was devised in England. The intention was to give a fillip to county cricket. They cannot have known where it would lead. Despite a glorious win in 2010, England have slipped to eighth in the rankings.
4 Whatever the rankings say – Brendon McCullum at No 1, Alex Hales at two – the best T20 batsman of the lot is Chris Gayle. Virtually a bat for hire, he plunders attacks. After a three-month rest he returns to the West Indies side in the nick of time.
5 Sri Lanka, at present top of the ICC rankings, probably start as World T20 favourites in reasonably familiar conditions. But it looks a virtually open field. Watch out for Australia.
6 In essence it should be made for the young, vibrant, athletic player. But Australia have defied convention by recalling two ageing Brads, 39-year-old Hodge and 43-year-old Hogg.
7 England, one of the four different winners of the World T20 in its four versions (India, Pakistan and West Indies are the others) have hired Paul Collingwood as temporary assistant coach. Captain when they won in 2010, he knows the tricks of the trade.
8 The shortest format has come to revolve a great deal around the first six powerplay overs and the last five overs when anything is possible. The latter are the reason why fearless, innovative players like Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler are so valuable to England.
9 This a huge moment for Bangladesh. Joint hosts of the last 50-over World Cup, this is their sole show. The cricket world will descend on one of the planet's most impoverished countries. Cricket gives the Bangladeshis a status beyond money.
10 After serious civil unrest during elections three months ago, there were real concerns that the event would have to be moved. Some countries are thought still to have security fears. But calm seems to prevail.
11 Much may depend on the first match next Sunday. Bangladesh's ranking means they have to play in the first round (the top eight are exempt until round two). If they lose the opener to Afghanistan they will struggle to qualify. Elimination may seriously affect interest on the ground.
12 The first round will see the eight most successful teams in a qualifying event compete in two groups for the right to progress to the main competition. The winners of each will be placed in different groups for round two, the so-called Super Ten.
13 For the third time the women's World T20 is being run in tandem. The events come together at the semi-final stage when the women's matches will be played before the men's. It has been an excellent concept.
14 Charlotte Edwards, the veteran England captain, is playing in her fourth tournament. Having recently been granted full professional status by the ECB there will be an urgency for them to go all the way.
15 The generation of players brought up on Twenty20 is now coming into its own. They are prepared to experiment – boldness is their bedfellow. Even on slow pitches, there will be flamboyance.
16 Almost perversely, slow bowlers, rather than being killed off by T20, have prospered. West Indies' Sunil Narine, rightly top of the ICC rankings, is far more potent here than in the longer game and there will be a great temptation, not least by England, to open the bowling with spin.
17 Seam bowling, too, has been revitalised. Never underestimate trying to hit the top of off stump in any sort of cricket but the different kinds of slower ball, cross seamers and cutters have raised the art form.
18 Tied matches are decided by a Super Over. The loss of two wickets will automatically end the over. It may be difficult but sides would be advised to practise.
19 England are clearly lapping up the Barbados sun and sand. But make no mistake, this is a vital part of their preparation. This is the chance, the only chance, to formulate plans and gel as a team.
20 For all the ICC's avowed intent to save Test cricket and open the way for small countries, T20 is where they will prosper. It has the power to bring the cricket world closer together.
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