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So, which is the best Twenty20 side in the world? Didn't last night's game pretty much answer that question? Ironically though, I'd still be wary of putting my money on the winner. Isn't Twenty20 cricket all about a given day and not so much about a particular team? Success and failure is anyone's call. Which teams will have a field day can hardly ever be determined on the basis of the playing XI. Hence, both Australia and England should be kept on the same pedestal for their brilliant showing in the tournament.
But how can we possibly throw Pakistan out of the race? Runners-up in 2007, winners in 2009 and semi-finalists in this edition, Pakistan have proved to be one of the most consistent sides in a format where inconsistency is the only consistent thing. If you don't believe me, ask our Men in Blue. Australia, England or Pakistan - three editions in four years and we still cannot be 100% sure about which team rules the roost in this format. Is it the nature of this format or is there more to it?
Before going into the reasons, here are a few statistics to lay the ground for my argument. India, for instance, play no less than 30 ODIs and more than four to five Tests in any given year. The more the number of matches, the more it helps a player hone his skill and become a specialist. On the contrary, the ICC has put a cap of seven [international] Twenty20 matches a country can play in a year, barring the World Cup. Oddly enough, the reason for this cap is to discourage teams from taking Twenty20 too seriously and hence safeguard the 50-overs format.
Well, if that be the case then how does one explain three World Twenty20s in four years? On the one hand, the ICC prohibits teams from playing more matches and on the other hand, expects them to compete at the highest level almost every alternate year. Isn't it ironical?
Australia was the best side in the world for over a decade not just because they won three World Cups in the interim but for their consistency over a period of time. We could gauge their quality because they won against all oppositions, both home and away. But is there a similar platform when it comes to Twenty20 cricket? The answer is a resounding no.
It isn't a secret that the more you play, the better you become. If the teams play more Twenty20 cricket, they'd identify Twenty20 specialists at the highest level and not in club or franchise-based domestic tournaments. A player might be devastating, batting at No. 4 for his franchise, but might prove a dud at No. 7 in international cricket. These players would then have specific roles assigned to them on the basis of their expertise. Eventually they'd start working like a well-oiled unit, quite similar to how most teams operate in the other two formats.
No longer do we pick the best Test players for 50-over cricket automatically. Then why are we still picking our best ODI players to double up as Twenty20 players? The reason is pretty straight forward - we are still in the phase of trial and error.
It's about time the ICC either takes this format seriously and allows teams to play more games or leaves it - with the exception of the World Twenty20 - for just the clubs to compete. For seven matches in a year is neither here nor there.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.