we are less than two hours away from the start of the first game of the
inaugural Twenty20 World Cup (which I unfortunately will not be watching, since
it will air at 4:00 AM, New Zealand time). Since this is supposed to be a
cricket blog and all, I suppose I'd be remiss if I didn't offer a few
Here's the problem, though: how do you make predictions for a game that was only invented a few of years ago, half of whose participants have only played it competitively once or twice before? It will all be conjecture anyway, so I suppose I'll just do what every 'expert' in the field seems to be doing at the moment and simply declare Australia the favourites, then include a couple of other possible 'contenders' from the field, and pull the justifications for those selections straight out of my ass.
Instead of making a case for a particular team, I'll work backwards and try to eliminate as many teams as possible from the list of contenders. Who can we eliminate? For one, teams that have yet to set up a domestic Twenty20 championship... so Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and all other groupie nations: buh-bye. Second -- and I'm pretty sure this is a good reason, even though I couldn't for the life of me explain why -- any team with a poor history of fielding and/or running between wickets is out. So here's looking at you, India and Pakistan! Good luck with that ICL thing.
As much as it pains me, I'll also have to give the Sri Lankans a pass this time. They are missing Muralitharan, they have once again been placed in the 'Group of Death,' and even their best player admits that they have no idea what they're doing yet and will have to make it up as they go. Maybe next time, boys.
So that leaves four possible contenders, apart from the Aussies: England, South Africa, the West Indies, and New Zealand. The West Indies are the weakest of the lot on paper; but the shorter the format, the better they look, and there is just something about having Chris Gayle as a leader that seems to galvanise that team. Decent odds on them, too. As Hansie Cronje (via Billy Birmingham) might say, "Eef ah wer' a behttin' man..." I'd put some money on the Windies.
England have the best domestic infrastructure in place, the most experience in the format, and are carrying a certain amount of form with them. At the same time, they are still England, and will probably need Flintoff and Pietersen to carry them through every step of the way if they wish to have any chance. (Plus, I once made a vow never to expect anything from any team whose bowling spearhead is either James Anderson or Ajit Agarkar.)
New Zealand are dangerous, as always, but apart from Bond and Vettori, their bowling really is quite dreadful (any bets on Mark Gillespie's economy rate for the tournament? Can he break the dozen? I can't wait to see). I also feel they're going to miss Fleming's captaincy.
And then there's South Africa. On paper, they look great -- they're playing at home, they have lots of attacking all-round weapons, their fielding is sharp, and they beat Australia comprehensively in a warm-up match. Which is only gonna make their inevitable choke so much more painful for them. (I'm sorry, but unless they prove us all wrong for once, they will always be a bunch of weak-minded losers in my mind. Nothing personal... I've just been here before.)
So my ultimate predictions are:
- South Africa dominate the group stages, looking very good along the way, but eventually get out for 85 to Australia in the semi-final.
- The West Indies and England will tough it out in other semi, with Marlon Samuels hitting the winning runs off a Jimmy Anderson half-volley.
- Samuels will then cause two crucial run-outs in the Final (I'm guessing it will be those of Chris Gayle and Shiv Chanderpaul, for good measure), leaving it all up to Dwayne Bravo to win it for the West Indies. Which he won't, because Brett Lee will bowl him with the last ball of the innings, off an unsighted no-ball.
We are dealing with Australia, after all.