India’s two big wins have given rise to the hope that they might repeat their win in the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in 2007. Last year, they did not even qualify for the semifinals and that was a huge disappointment for their supporters. The manner of their win over South Africa shows that even without regulars like Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan, India have the players who can win.
The T20 format seems to be made to order for some and Suresh Raina in particular. His magnificent century took India to the big total against South Africa. He was tested by the pacers with the short delivery but he came through with flying colours. Despite the initial discomfort a player faces, it is his final score that is important and Raina showed that he can take the knocks and then play a blazing innings.
Yuvraj Singh too is showing that he is getting back to form and that is good news. MS Dhoni made clever use of the spinners and though South Africa did not lose wickets, they were never going to make the target.
Australia’s win over holders Pakistan also makes them more confident in this version of the game. Somehow, they haven’t been able to master this format and the win sends a signal that maybe they are coming to grips with the format and will be the team to watch.
Their neighbours, New Zealand, sprung a surprise by beating last year’s runners-up Sri Lanka. Though they are a stop-start team, they can play above themselves and cause problems for the other teams. In Daniel Vettori they have a skipper in the Dhoni-mould who is hardly ruffled. With Jesse Ryder back, and with experienced all-rounders like Jacob Oram and Scott Styris also fit, underestimating the Kiwis would be unwise.
England play Ireland and with the history between the two, it will be a needle game indeed. Ireland are certainly charged up for such opportunities which give them a chance to seek greater recognition, and they can make a good point if they beat England. They did look out of their batting depth against the West Indies’ quicks but with England relying more on seam than pace the Irish will be hoping to put a better batting show.
These games will determine who gets through to the Super Eight series, so it could be a keen contest.