Teams get into Twenty20 mode
Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kenya will get in their final bit of practice ahead of the Twenty20 World Championship in a four-nation tournament beginning in Nairobi tomorrow. Uganda will relish the opportunity to play against higher opposition and dip their fingers into the slam-bang form of the game that has grown in popularity.
The tournament begins with Kenya taking on Bangladesh and Pakistan playing Uganda. The most anticipated match, between Bangladesh and Pakistan, is on September 2.
Geoff Lawson, the former Australian fast bowler and current coach of Pakistan, sees the tournament as an opportunity to practice. "We can prepare strategies, try and find the right balances, work out plans and play any number of practice games but that can only take you so far," Lawson said. "Until the first match happens, we won't really know what to expect."
Pakistan, with big names that can attract the crowds in Nairobi, are easy favourites to lift the tournament because of their Twenty20 experience. Shoaib Malik, who recently said that the captaincy has made him stronger, Imran Nazir and Shahid Afridi are all big hitters of the cricket ball, and Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar are two exciting fast bowlers who form a lethal opening combination.
Bangladesh, who have not played international cricket since late July, warmed up for the Twenty20 World Championship with a number of practice matches in Mirpur, near Dhaka. Mohammad Ashraful, the captain, hoped this tournament would offer much-needed exposure ahead of the bigger prize in South Africa.
"It is good for us to play in this tournament since we expect the Kenyan conditions to be the same as in South Africa," he told AFP. "We have not played many Twenty20 matches and this tournament will help gauge the playing abilities of the players."
Kenya struggled recently against the A sides of India and Sri Lanka and have little experience of the Twenty20 game. Uganda, led by Joel Olweny, have four Under-19 players - Roger Mukasa, Arthur Kyobe, Charles Waiswa and Ronald Ssemanda - and three new faces in Martin Ondeko, Kebba Nicholas and Jeremy Kibuuka-Musoke.
The four-day competition will be completed when Pakistan face Kenya on September 4; two days later the teams - barring Uganda - fly to Johannesburg for the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship.