This is Eight, rise 'n' shine
It's been almost 10 days but the tournament proper begins today. The wheat has been separated from the chaff and the stage is set for the Super Eights in the World Twenty20. Sanjjeev K Samyal reports.
It's been almost 10 days but the tournament proper begins today. The wheat has been separated from the chaff and the stage is set for the Super Eights in the World Twenty20. Hosts Sri Lanka and defending champions England are in Group 1 with New Zealand and West Indies, but it is Group 2 which will be the main attraction of the event.
Past champions India and Pakistan are lined up along side Australia and South Africa. These are the four of the best teams in the fray, not only on past record but also on current form - all four topped their respective groups.
The matches involving India are expected to attract most interest, and riveting action is lined-up with Dhoni's men taking on Australia on September 28, Pakistan on September 30 (Sunday) and South Africa on October 2 (also a public holiday).
The India-Australia match had not generated the same excitement when the schedule was drawn up. Both came into the tournament at the back of an inconsistent run and had mixed results in the warm-up games.
In between, Australia had even slipped below Ireland in the ICC rankings and lost the T20 series against Pakistan. On the other hand, India lost at home against New Zealand.
However, the two teams have timed their build-up right.
Australia bludgeoned Ireland, and under pressure against West Indies, produced a fighting batting performance. India played a perfect match against England to be in the right frame of mind heading into the high-pressure games.
Given how Australia-India fixtures have produced exciting cricket in the last decade, the opening encounter is keenly awaited by the fans.
Clashes between the two often bring the best out of the players. Australia held the upper hand in the last series in their backyard but in Sri Lankan conditions, it will be an even contest.
Talking of pressure, nothing can match the tension players will feel when India play Pakistan in what can be called the 'el clasico' of sub-continent cricket. Pakistan have been in roaring form. They will be buoyed by their massive win in the warm-up game. But they are yet to break the jinx against India in World Cups.
If the Pakistan game will have passions running high, India can brace up for a grueling test next when they square up against South Africa. It will have extra interest because of the presence of their previous coach, Gary Kirsten, in the Proteas corner.
The sub-continent teams are predicted to hold the advantage but South Africa are a well-oiled machine, who are renowned to play consistently well in the league phases.
"That's a tough group. India has played some fantastic cricket, Pakistan is playing great cricket. Australia came up with some big performances. I think it will be a very tough group to qualify in. We've been playing in Hambantota, so we haven't played here. Looks like a wicket that's slower, will take a bit of turn. So our preparations are certainly going to be different from what we had in Hambantota where the wicket is a bit quicker. I think we'll focus on those scenarios, likely to face spinners in Power Play and more of spin throughout middle overs," said South Africa's Albie Morkel.
Reading the cricket menu, a delicious fare is on offer at the R Premadasa Stadium, but one is hoping there's no rain. The tournament so far has suffered due to monsoon and the forecast for the next week isn't good. So, teams will also have to be ready for the sudden change in equations if the D/L rule comes into play.