Yuvi’s back, will T20 cup come home?

It is cricket’s equivalent of the silly season but one of enormous significance from the game’s points of view. The T20 world championship may not have gained in importance with each successive tournament as envisaged. However, the tournament may get its big boost when played in Asia where the passion for the big bang version of the game is a huge hit. It was enough for India to win the first edition in South Africa to get the ball rolling as it were.

Pakistan’s triumph in the second event seemed to suggest that such cricket might become a monopoly of the Asians who were thought to be clever with the new ball and intelligent with the old while having the batsmen who could defy the odds and keep playing the big shots. The emerging theory was disproved by England’s march in the Caribbean that has left the cup in its charge over the last two years.

England are the defending champions but they hardly seem to be in form enough at the moment to pose a serious challenge. The shadow of Kevin Pietersen keeps chasing them and unless they can shake off that spectre and find someone to play his dominating role in slow pitch conditions in Colombo (and just outside) they may not quite descend on the island with the swagger of those who won the cup at the last event.

Australia were not convincing in the Emirates but they could be a force out in Sri Lanka provided the big batting guns fire in unison and the faster bowlers get the hang of bowling in slow conditions where the big hitters are at a distinct advantage. Lankan pitches are said to be truer than before as they are no longer the turgid surfaces that used to slow up the ball noticeably. Even so, the pitch at the showpiece ground Premadasa stadium might get worn out before the final stages and not be the free flowing, tall scoring arena best suited to bring out all the T20 attractions.

The West Indies are not to be written off even if they have never shown the cohesion as a team to be a force throughout a tournament on the big stage. Their stars steeped in IPL experience like Chris Gayle can make a real difference as they well know all it takes to swing a game is one big hitting innings. And there are many others in that batting order today who can do a Gayle in case the opener falls in launching his audacious assaults on the new ball.

The T20 world championship could be more important for Team India than many others. Having won the inaugural event and changed the face of world cricket with the creation of IPL, Indian cricket was to taste disappointment in the next two other outings in which team India did not even qualify for the higher rounds. A third disappointment in a row may even mean disenchantment with the format can set in, which could well affect the grip cricket has on the nation.

To see an established match winner like Yuvraj Singh emerge from his shell after his battle with cancer and perform without any sign of discomfort is a most encouraging sign. With a bit of luck he may even have taken India across the line in the thriller at Chepauk. That would have been another fairytale story of Indian cricket, which sadly just failed to materialise. On an emotional day like that a one-run defeat must have been galling for a heroic figure who adds more value to those unfortunate enough to be struck with the dreaded disease.

The South Africans who are ranked on top of the T20 ladder have their regular task to perform, which is to discard the tag of the great chokers in time. Their history of defeats - save for one ICC Knockout event they won in the early days of return to international cricket - suggests they have always come a cropper. How they fare when they are also world’s number one will be fraught with interest.

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