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Four teams and four intriguing tales

The battle to the top of the T20 planet starts at Trent Bridge on Thursday, when South Africa take on Pakistan in the first semifinal, with Sri Lanka try to get past the West Indies at the Oval a day later, reports Arjun Sen.

cricket Updated: Jun 18, 2009 00:06 IST
Arjun Sen

Four teams, four intriguing tales, and one charge to the top. The battle to the top of the T20 planet starts at Trent Bridge on Thursday, when South Africa take on Pakistan in the first semifinal, with Sri Lanka try to get past the West Indies at the Oval a day later.

For the players, these semifinals provide an opportunity to bring a smile to their countrymen's faces, an opportunity to be almost part of their country's folklore. Cricket in Pakistan, post Lahore, has been reduced to a distant dream. The country has become the pariah in the international game, with no team keen on touring. While it is not hard to see why teams have adopted this hands-off strategy with Pakistan, the players have been bearing its brunt.

For a country where violence is becoming a part of everyday life, a win in the final at Lord's on June 21 will provide the country with a sense of joy that will go much beyond the realms of cricket.

Lahore, in many ways, is what will also push the Sri Lankans to glory. This tournament, by the players' own admission, means a lot to the people of Sri Lanka. It is a chance to forget the insane violence that has ravaged their country and enjoy a triumph of not just the players, but, the entire country.

South Africa have always come in to major tournaments as hot favourites, often billed as a team that possesses everything. And yet, somehow, it just doesn't happen for the Proteas. 'Chokers' is a term that has been used liberally with them. It is undoubtedly a mental block, and a win in England would help this bunch, and possibly even the future, to get over it.

The West Indies' tale has a very different take to it. Led by the cool and carefree Chris Gayle, the players have often taken on the WICB over a sponsorship row, even threatening to sit out international games. Not one to be overly bothered after a defeat, after all they happen so regularly, the title of world champions could be the start of another strong period of Caribbean teams. But, then again, that's a long shot.

Once the first ball is bowled at Trent Bridge, however, the players will have to forget about larger picture. For then, it will, once again, be all about the cricket.

Road to semifinal

South Africa

Beat Scotland by 130 runs at the Oval

Beat New Zealand by 1 run at the Lord's

Beat England by 7 wickets (with 10 balls remaining) at Nottingham

Beat West Indies by 20 runs at the Oval

Beat India by 12 runs at Nottingham

Pakistan

Lost to England by 48 runs at the Oval.

Beat The Netherlands by 82 runs at the Lord's

Lost to Sri Lanka by 19 runs at the Lord's

Beat New Zealand by 6 wickets (with 41 balls remaining) at the Oval

Beat Ireland by 39 runs at the Oval