September 23, 2012

Quicks throw open the tournament

The surprisingly positive response of the Sri Lankan pitches to fast bowling has given nearly every top team a chance at the World Twenty20
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The first week of the World Twenty20 has resembled a couple of young lovers on a getting-to-know-you date - a lot of foreplay but not much action. Despite this, two points have been clearly made: the ICC has to rethink it's "minnow match" strategy, and fast bowlers are going to play a bigger part in deciding the champion than was originally thought.

The ICC regularly works on clearing the minnows early, but it makes for a slow start to any tournament. It doesn't send the message to the viewing public that this tournament is a vibrant and competitive affair. It's okay to open the tournament with the hosts playing a minnow - the last thing you want is the locals feeling their team is on the way to a quick exit - but the ICC needs to programme at least a couple of marquee match-ups in the first half a dozen games. It has taken a few days for the tournament to gain a feel of anything but a series of lopsided matches.

The pitches at the Premadasa and in Pallekele have shown some life and bounce, suggesting this won't just become a battle of the teams that bowl and play spin best. The good spinners will definitely play a role, but it's more likely to be complementary rather than starring.

This is not necessarily good news for India, who are struggling to unearth quality quick bowlers. They still have an explosive batting line-up that can destroy anything less than the best bowling, but how they cope with short-pitched deliveries is more likely to determine their progress in the tournament. The former top-class West Indies fast bowler Andy Roberts once summed up the destructive powers of their four quicks by saying: "Whatever the opposition bowl us out for, we'll bowl them out for less." India might have to adopt the opposite approach in this tournament: "No matter how many runs the opposition make, we'll score more."

For South Africa, who have retained two prongs of their menacing three-headed Test pace attack, the sight of bouncy pitches must be as welcome as the first glint of gold in a Transvaal mining shaft. Add Jacques Kallis, who is another pace option, and the cagey spin of Johan Botha and Robin Peterson, plus an aggressive batting line-up, and you have the recipe for attaining precious silverware.

But this is South Africa, the team that misread a Duckworth-Lewis target sheet, the team that forgot to run when a simple single would have got them into a Cup final, the team that seems to lose any match where the word "final" closely follows either "quarter" or "semi". South Africa now have a big chance to erase all those forlorn memories. However, they'll have to do it in a country where the tourist attraction of leopard sightings hasn't yet unearthed one without the familiar spots.

England are another side that will have welcomed the sight of bounce in the pitches. They have some quality pace bowlers and a high-class spinner, and it's just a matter of whether they score enough runs post-Kevin Pietersen to stretch the other contenders.

Australia will also have heaved a sigh of relief after an outing at the Premadasa. Their struggles when facing deceptive spin bowling have been well documented, but these are less likely to be exposed in the prevailing conditions. Nevertheless, they are handicapping themselves as long as they don't include the ultra-aggressive David Hussey in the batting line-up.

West Indies are a highly dangerous combination. Their batting is as explosive as a triggered landmine, and Sunil Narine's spin bowling provides wicket-taking opportunities. In the end they may rue not including the pace-bowling aggression of Kemar Roach on these pitches.

And Pakistan can't be discounted with the destructive pace-spin combination of Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal, but their batting is probably too inconsistent to consistently provide enough runs.

It's shaping up to be one of the most open and intriguing prestige tournaments the ICC has held. It's just a pity it took so long to reach anything resembling a climax.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kharidra on September 26, 2012, 13:19 GMT

    As a keen student of the gameChappelli - your Views and Contributions to the game have been immense - Many Happy Returns of the day (Sep-26-2012).

  • vimalkm on September 26, 2012, 11:02 GMT

    Ok been a while since i sent a comment here.

    The reason why cricket is exiting and countries that play well away from there country is regarded as a good team is cause of varying condition's. I do not understand why pitch should bounce in SL and not spin? Its every time there is a tournament in sub continent this topic comes up! how come you don't hear this when playing in Aus or Eng? I am not saying Eng should have turners jus that THIS is what makes cricket good ... different conditions and home advantage.

  • dummy4fb on September 26, 2012, 0:32 GMT

    The T20 format is so unpredictable against the top teams. Look at England's drubbing against India, and 2 days before India nearly had a scare against the Afghans. On the day a T20 depends on which player has the "luck" of playing better than they did...say 2 days ago ( Gautam )

    On paper, India should win the T20 but like I said again, it depends which player can do a remarkable change that takes the game away from the opposition. EXAMPLE, Jos Bulter's day or even Chawla's.

    I fancy Australia to win the T20 because the Big Bash has helped them understand the game a lot better than the Indian's who's blowers tend to just leak runs thinking they'll be ok because they have posted a total of 190

  • KarachiKid on September 25, 2012, 12:59 GMT

    Fully agree with his assessment of Pakistani batting line up. In fact he is being a bit nice. It down right pathetic.

  • Udendra on September 25, 2012, 4:44 GMT

    By preparing seamer-friendly pitches, SLC has taken away the 'home' advantage of Sri Lanka and other sub-continent teams. But do we get turning wickets in ENG or AUS or SA?

  • Meety on September 25, 2012, 3:01 GMT

    @Shashi Punchihewa - SHOULD SL prepare more bouncier & faster pitches, I would expect SL's overseas record to improve EVERYWHERE, not just in Oz. Looking forward to the SL series coming up Kumar Sangakkarra is my favourite non-ozzy cricketer. @anton1234 on (September 24 2012, 02:32 AM GMT) - at the moment it technically is 15 overs a day. They just don't enforce it that often. Over rates are under a bit of pressure due to UDRS reviews.

  • dummy4fb on September 24, 2012, 20:30 GMT

    Mr Chappell, I'm surprised the word you used "surprisingly". It is a out come of our cricketing planes(pitches). in future you may see SL thrashing AUSSIES in their home soil. Looking foward to the SL tour of Australia. Be ready to have it in your home country.

  • Thamara on September 24, 2012, 19:08 GMT

    You may have written this article before England vs India game started. But I have to say that England looked terribly bad against spinners. Their yougsters may not have played spinners as good as Harbajan singh and Piyush Chawla in county games. I also think that South Africa is the strongest team in the competition. But we should not write australia off because they know how to win tournaments. Although India bowled well against inexperienced england batting line-up, I still think that Indian bowling attack is not very strong. They haven't been tested yet against a good team. Their fast bowlers look average to me. Other most competiive team in this tournament is west indies which is full of big hitters. WI batting line-up can tear apart any bowling line-up in the tournament. If they play to their potential, nobody can stop them from winning this world cup. And their bowling is not bad either. With the inclusion of Fidel Edwards, WI bowling looks strong.

  • baggar on September 24, 2012, 17:50 GMT

    Do not write off WI ...... and proven best performer of T20 Pakistan .....

  • Selassie-I on September 24, 2012, 15:57 GMT

    Not the first time I've seen a Chappell article be immidiatley disproved (By the Eng/India game). There is a bit of bouce and movement but spin will still be king and it will become more prominent throughout the tournament. @Jonsey2 - have you ever seen Philander bowl? he's pretty good mate, i've seen him in the flesh from behind his arm. Morne is good but has always been inconsistent, but he may well have matured to have that consstency after bowling well all summer. I remember Jim Anderson never looked like he was going to get in the team fully many years ago and he's matured into one of the most accurate and dangerous bowlers in the world now.

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