West Indies spinner Sunil Narine bowls during the fifth One-Day International cricket match against New Zealand in Basseterre, St. Kitts. West Indies won by 20 runs to clinch the series 4-1. AP Photo
After a few one-sided matches for the big guns, the nerve-tickling matches start off now. Hosts Sri Lanka take on South Africa in Hambantota and Australia will cross swords with one of the most sort after sides, the West Indies, at Colombo.
The nature of the pitches has brought teams from outside the subcontinent into the picture. The pitches are under the control of ICC and have been prepared by Mike Atkinson.
So, there is more pace, bounce and carry. These are not the typical low-slow pitches of the subcontinent, and if one looks back at the South Africa versus Zimbabwe, India versus Afghanistan or Australia versus Ireland matches, you will know what I am talking about.
The Sri Lanka-South Africa match will test both the teams. South Africa used to go in with an extra bowler and whenever their top order failed, they got stuck for lack of depth in the batting order.
The team which the Proteas fielded against Zimbabwe seemed to have the right balance of having the extra bowling option with good depth in batting.
If they can hold their nerve in big-match situations, South Africa will be a side to watch out for.
Big test ahead
They will be tested by Ajanta Mendis, who has added a dimension to the Sri Lanka unit. Mystery bowlers are a key in T20 as batsmen take time to line them up, which is not easy and the variation they provide creates wicket-taking opportunities. Another handy cricketer for Sri Lanka is Jeevan Mendis, with his uncanny batting and good bowling. But overall, fast bowlers will hold the key at Hambantota.
People who romanticise cricket will focus on the West Indies. They are a team to watch out for and this tournament could well mark a West Indian revival.
Chris Gayle is one who can destroy any bowling single-handedly. Having played a lot of T20 across the world, Gayle has changed the pattern of his game. He now waits for an opportunity and when he hits, it stays hit.
West Indies have a bunch of cricketers like Dwyane Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Marlon Samuels, Andre Russel and Dwyane Smith, who have played a lot in the subcontinent and will not be worried about the conditions.
They have a beautiful bowling balance and with Sunil Naraine, who has had a terrific year, the Windies are a force. Their only worrying factor will be inconsistency, and they will need to guard against it.
They will be up against a side which after many years, is not considered favourites. Australia have talent but one will need to see how they adapt to situations.
They will need to find a place for David Hussey as the man is a powerhouse in the shorter format.
With the young Starc, Cummins, Watson, Christian and the evergreen Hogg, Australia have the variation in bowling, but in batting, I would like to see my old KKR mate David make the XI.
The writer is a former india skipper
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