By Karthik Parimal
It’s astonishing to see the kind of attention a triangular Twenty20 (T20) tournament involving Zimbabwe, South Africa and Bangladesh has garnered. It’s also a pleasant surprise to see a young, spirited Zimbabwean unit upstage two well-established sides albeit in the shortest format of the game. Despite not having played enough cricket in the past few months, it’s heartwarming to see Zimbabwe triumph in a resounding manner. Keeping the upcoming T20 World Cup in mind, and looking at such performances coming from low-profile nations, one can’t help but get the feeling that none of the teams can be taken lightly in this format of the game.
In spite of fielding a depleted side for this tournament, the South Africans were surely considered to be a force to reckon with, especially with players the likes of Hashim Amla, Francois du Plessis, Richard Levi and Albie Morkel in the side. One expected them to have it easy against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh; but that was not to be. All three teams were equal in terms of points at the end of the league stages, and the final was played between the two teams having a relatively better Net Run Rate. Such is the competition in this format. No team is a favourite.
Zimbabwe was the better side for a major part of this tournament and there is no denying that fact. The top two leading run-scorers and the bowler with maximum wickets overall were all Zimbabweans. Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor scored 267 and 163 runs respectively at an average of 66.75 and 40.75, whereas Christopher Mpofu was the highest-wicket taker alongside South Africa’s Wayne Parnell with seven wickets in five matches at an average of 16.14 to his name. It was enthralling to watch them coast to a nine-wicket victory over South African in the final.
The Bangladeshis too performed fairly well, despite the absence of ace all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan. Their loss to Zimbabwe was a shocker, but they did well to resurge and upset the South Africans. It’s good that relatively weaker sides too can stage an upset in this format of the game, and now that many sides have got a hang of this format, the upcoming T20 World Cup is going to be an interesting one. No team is a clear-cut favourite to win this trophy and it will come down to how the resources will be marshalled according to the situation.
Also, the fact that the Zimbabweans have trounced the South Africans in this tournament will go a long way in boosting the former’s confidence during the T20 World Cup. Both these sides feature in the same group during the upcoming World Cup, and the Zimbabweans should feel that they’ve got every chance of making it to the Super Eights after this performance. The Bangladeshis, too, who are placed alongside Pakistan and New Zealand in the group, must fancy themselves considering the fact that they will be playing in familiar sub-continent conditions, and unlike New Zealand, they’ve played far more T20 cricket in the past few months.
Both Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have shown tremendous promise since the past few months and have been delivering on a sporadic basis. West Indies is another team that looks extremely strong on paper but fails to perform when it matters most. They’ve been advancing steadily but cannot seem to get the ball rolling consistently. Even during Sunday’s only T20 against World No.1 England, West Indies just couldn’t finish the job with the ball despite putting up a handsome batting performance. Make no mistake, they’ve got effective bowlers who can restrict quite a few oppositions, but they just don’t seem to click together as a unit yet. A lot was expected from mystery spinner Sunil Narine during the series against England, but it appeared as though he couldn’t get a foothold. It would be ridiculous to right him off just yet, but it’s important that he performs for the West Indies since a lot will depend on him in the days ahead.
Nevertheless, the T20 format provides a great opportunity for lesser teams to make their mark on the international stage, and the forthcoming T20 World Cup is the one in which teams like Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and the West Indies should look to carve a niche for themselves. Zimbabwe have shown that they can give top teams a run for their money, Bangladesh have been on an ascendancy since the past few months and the West Indies can pack a punch as well. A lot of West Indian players have played in the IPL, and that experience must be used to the fullest during the T20 World Cup that will be held in Sri Lanka during September. These teams cannot be taken lightly.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. His zeal for writing and love for the sport of cricket is what has brought him here. Karthik can also be followed on Twitter)