The buzz of a big tournament

By David Hopps

Global tournaments give limited-overs matches the context they often sorely lack © AFP
 

As always at times like this, what I am looking forward to most of all is the narrative of the tournament. Limited-overs matches tacked randomly onto the end of Test series often feel insignificant, but when a World Cup comes around, whether over 50 or 20 overs, there is always a buzz in the air and a story to tell.

The story of the tournament, most obviously, develops on the field of play, but it also emerges in the words and the expressions of the captains at media conferences and in the gossip in the bars and restaurants. This World Twenty20 might come alive for me with a great run out, a six out of the ground or a wicket at a vital time; it might also become colourful because of a tall tale told over a beer while the sun goes down over Galle Face Green.

That is why Colombo is likely to prove the most satisfying of the three venues. It is here, in the capital, where cricket lovers will gather most easily to talk of the winners and losers, the rising stars or simply to recount the stories that will help to fire our enthusiasm for the weeks ahead. International cricket badly needs a memorable one-day tournament. If the north-east monsoon holds off, this could be it.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Silk amid the slog

By Sambit Bal

Twenty20 matches are often a blur, memories of one match smudging in to another, a surfeit of action leading to numbness, and the insignificance of the dismissal rendering the adventure of stroke-play much less thrilling. But a global tournament always brings narrative and themes, and most of my memories of this format are from the world stage.

This year, I am looking forward to my own private theme. Lasith Malinga is of course a sight, but there is no point pretending that Twenty20 isn't outright a batsman's game - it's the fours and sixes that count. And there is something to be said about the power hitters: Virender Sehwag carving bowlers over point, Chris Gayle hitting them straight and long with no apparent effort, AB de Villiers manufacturing outrageous strokes at the death or David Warner muscling them square of the wicket.

But it can also be done with a touch of silk, in a manner that tingles the senses and soothes the eye. And my eyes in this tournament will be on Mahela Jayawerdene and Hashim Amla. Also Virat Kohli. With touch, timing, wrists and lightness of feet, they can score all around the wicket against all kinds of bowling, and keep up with the pace of the bullies without compromising the dignity of their art.

Why be a brute if you can charm the ball to the ropes?

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

Can Pakistan undo 2010?

By Abhishek Purohit

On the field, there is one side whose progress will be the most captivating to watch - Pakistan. Because of the format, because of what has happened between the last edition of the tournament and this one. After Michael Hussey did a Miandad to Saeed Ajmal in the semi-final of the 2010 event, Pakistan went to England and lost their captain, their new-ball pair and much of their credibility. For a side to have extricated itself from such a sordid mess and put together the third-best win-loss ratio among Test teams in international cricket since then is simply staggering. They will not have forgotten Hussey 2010, they will not have forgotten Lord's 2010. Will Colombo 2012 offer a shot at redemption?

Laterally, this could probably be the first time that a world cricket event is being held basically at two venues, Colombo and Pallekele, if you take away the three games to be played in secluded Hambantota. While Sri Lankans, like most on the subcontinent, love their cricket, it remains to be seen whether Colombo can sustain its appetite for 15 matches spread over just 19 days, not counting the knockout games of the women's event. Subcontinent venues are known to largely ignore games where the home team is not involved. How will Colombo and Pallekele fare on that front?

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Cricket as frenzied fun

By Andrew Fernando

Much has been made of Sri Lanka's affability for foreigners, the beauty of its landscape and the laidback nature of its cities and people, but for me, the parties in the stands are what define cricket on the island. The party at the cricket is a snapshot into the character of its people. Papare (the stadium bands) pumping, limbs flailing, hoarse voices bellowing out tune after baila tune, the frenzied fun is an emphatic pronouncement on Sri Lanka's outlook on the game; cricket is not just a sport, it's a celebration. Occasionally a little lubrication is required to grease the frolicking into full swing, but anyone who has attended a match on a Poya (full moon) day knows that when you party Sri Lankan style, inebriation is optional.

Just as well for Twenty20, whose three-and-a-half hour span allows for only so many overpriced drinks. Sri Lankans have realised in recent years that unlike at ODIs and Tests, where there is plenty of time to warm up, expeditious merrymaking is imperative at a T20. By the end of the first Powerplay, the out-of-time pelvic thrust move is usually making its way around the stands like a Mexican wave (poorly) choreographed by Michael Jackson. Over the next three weeks I know I will be repeatedly tempted to ditch my job in a sterile media box to go join in the fun. If only the cost of living wasn't so high.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka