ICC World Twenty20 September 19, 2012

No opening ceremony?

It's back to the good old days when people just got on with their cricket

After the summer's five-ring-themed hoopla, it's a shock to arrive at the beginning of a sports extravaganza, clutching your glossy advert-infested "Guide To What You Already Know About The Teams That Are About To Compete", to learn that there is to be no pre-jamboree jamboree. No C-List Bollywood types lip-syncing to songs you can almost recall. No inflatable elephants. No real elephants. No Victoria Beckham. No inspirational choreographed tributes to the Ministry for Wellbeing. Not even the merest hint of a blimp.

The Sri Lankan board is having none of it. Just a brisk handshake, a quick blast from the World's Best National Anthems Compilation CD via a crackly PA system, and let's get on with it gentlemen. It's the kind of no-nonsense, taking care of business attitude that speaks of a purist approach to the game, of an impatience with the shallow fripperies of modern sport and of no money left in the entertainment budget.

There will still be garlands for the victorious team, but these will be made of discarded batting gloves and threaded by the losing 12th man. Prior to the final, the crowd will be entertained by members of the ICC Executive Cheerleading Squad (though in deference to the sensitivities of a worldwide television audience, hairy knees will be covered up at all times) and SLC are also hoping at some point to persuade Sanath Jayasuriya's forearms out of retirement to put on a demonstration of wood chopping.

The format of the tournament is a little peculiar. It starts with some claustrophobic little groups of three, designed to dispense with the minnows in the shortest possible time. Afghanistan, for example, are unlikely to make it as far as the weekend. Thanks for coming, chaps, hope you enjoyed your 48 hours at the World Twenty20, don't forget to stop by the officially licensed gift shop on your way back to the airport.

And then, the party can really start with the Super Eight, although should one of the minnows manage to sneak into this stage of the tournament, perhaps by stowing away in one of the bigger teams' coaches, I understand that the ICC will rename it the Super Seven-and-a-Half and, as is traditional, the team concerned will be heavily criticised for devaluing the latter stages by their presence.

So who will win? My money, or more accurately, my bank's money, is on Pakistan, so expect a swift exit for the Professor and his students. I am pleased to say though that I have finally managed to overcome the persistent and financially ruinous delusion, formed in my formative cricket watching years in the mid 1980s, that New Zealand should always be regarded as dark horses. Dark ponies, possibly, but ponies almost never win horse races, particularly ponies that have to stop every furlong or so to throw up.

Who does that leave? India (too obvious) Sri Lanka (ditto) Australia (boring) South Africa (boring) and England (don't be silly). I like the look of Bangladesh, but then I often do and my belief in the fantasy that the Tigers are about to break through has been almost as detrimental to my financial wellbeing as the New Zealand fallacy. By a process of elimination therefore the winners are almost certainly going to be the West Indies.

Congratulations to them and bad luck to beaten finalists Zimbabwe, who almost certainly would have won were it not for that herd of unicorns causing the match to be abandoned and the deployment of the Duckworth Lewis Mythical Creature Algorithm.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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