The T20 Cricket World Cup in Australia couldn’t have asked for a better start. Wins by two Associate nations Nambia and Scotland, that too against Test–playing nations, have spiced up the event ahead of the Super 12s.
These are first-round matches, and two results haven’t gone according to the script: Asia Cup champions Sri Lanka were lanced down by Namibia, and two-time winners West Indies stumbled against Scotland. More shocks may be in store.
The giant-slaying acts by minnows can be attributed to the unpredictability of T20 games. The shotgun nature allows for short game-changing moments: one brief innings, one over, or even one catch can turn a match around. That’s the nature of limited-over games. Teams work at it: preparing for the unexpected.
Sri Lanka’s Houdini act in Asia Cup
Players are identified for specific roles so that teams can ride out slumps and build on small breakthroughs. That’s how T20 games are won. Champions are minted on their ability to turn adversities into victories.
Take Sri Lanka, for example. They turned an atrocious start in the Asia Cup into a victory march on the back of authoritative performances that humbled India and Pakistan. So don’t write off Sri Lanka yet. They are capable of another Houdini act.
Dasun Shanaka leads a talented bunch of cricketers who can survive the Namibia shock and mount a serious challenge. In many ways, Sri Lankans are like the West Indians, who are prone to humiliating defeats and thumping wins. So, the losses weren’t entirely unexpected, especially in the T20 format.
Sri Lanka is in the final phase of rebuilding after the retirement of stalwarts like Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga. The new crop of players is still finding their feet. Shanaka, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Charith Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Mahesh Theekshana and Dushmantha Chameera are a skilful lot but lack consistency. That was evident in the game against the UAE too.
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Inconsistency has been the stumbling block of the West Indies too. They were unbeatable under Clive Lloyd, lording over cricket in the seventies. The cloak of invincibility has slipped, but the Calypso spirit is still alive, and that translated into the T20 World Cup wins of 2012 and 2016. Carlos Braithwaite’s four sixes in a row in the final over of the title clash against England has become part of cricket history.
The West Indies also lost powerhouses like Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, and Andre Russell to retirement or lack of form. Nicholas Pooran helms a side lacking in experience, unable to dent the chances of favourites. Yet a loss to Scotland was unexpected; they are better than that.
Such shocks are commonplace for the West Indies. I really don’t see them progressing too far in the tournament. They will cause an upset or two and win handsomely too. That wouldn’t be enough to win the tournament.