Twenty20 comes home to England

Updated: 29 May 2009 10:41 IST

Cricket's newest format returns to its birthplace when England hosts the ICC World Twenty20 next month.

Twenty20 comes home to England

London:

Cricket's newest format returns to its birthplace when England hosts the ICC World Twenty20 next month.

But, as with all the other forms of one-day cricket first played in England at county level, the 'mother country' has found herself having to play catch-up with the rest of the world.

Originally conceived as a fun way of bringing new audiences, particularly those who couldn't watch cricket during the working day, into the game, Twenty20 has taken the sport by storm.

Tournaments such as the Indian Premier League (IPL) are now far more lucrative per match for a player than five-day Test cricket, the traditional pinnacle of the sport.

India, whose administrators were originally hostile to Twenty20 because they feared its commercial impact upon the 50-over game, won the inaugural global tournament in South Africa two years ago.

Nine members of that winning squad, which defeated arch-rivals Pakistan by five runs in a thrilling final in Johannesburg, will be coming to England.

But, in what above all other types of cricket is a game heavily weighted in favour of batsmen, India will be without master run-maker Sachin Tendulkar, who has now opted out of Twenty20 Internationals.

Generally short boundaries and fielding restrictions put a premium on big-hitting batsmen and in Yuvraj Singh they have someone who struck England's Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over in South Africa.

Tendulkar, who himself played in this year's IPL, warned it was important that openers Yuvraj and Gautam Gambhir were refreshed after failing to find top form in the IPL.

"I think the key would be how soon they can shed the fatigue factor," Tendulkar said.

Wicket-taking bowlers are an invaluable commodity in a game where economy rates can go out the window and India look to have a promising pace attack.

Left-armer Rudra Pratap Singh, who took 12 wickets in South Africa in 2007, will be supported this time around by Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma.

Pakistan, starved of international cricket at home after a terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in March made the country a 'no-go zone', will fancy their chances of going one better this time around.

"I thought Australia would thrash them in the one-off T20 match in Dubai but it was the other way round and now, if Pakistan play to their potential, they can win the title," Pakistan great Wasim Akram had said.

Australia have dominated all forms of cricket during the last decade except Twenty20 and captain Ricky Ponting is determined to improve both his and the team's record.

"The past couple of games I've played have been very poor," he said. "In the two games in South Africa I made one in each. It's not great form going into a World Cup."

However, at least he is set to take part - which is more than England captain Andrew Strauss.

The opening batsman has opted out of the tournament because he thinks he isn't a good enough Twenty20 player.

Worryingly for tournament organisers, the attention of much of the British media, and indeed home cricket fans, appears firmly fixed on the Ashes Test series at home to Australia which comes after the World Twenty20.

England, for all their experience, have never won a major One-Day International tournament and they head into this event with injury doubts over star performers Andrew Flintoff (knee) and Kevin Pietersen (Achilles).

But the IPL and subsequent international form of Ravi Bopara has shown England that there is life beyond "Freddie" and "KP".

Sri Lanka and New Zealand have repeatedly punched above their weight in international tournaments and could do so again during a tournament that will take place at three of English cricket's most historic venues - Lord's, the Oval and Trent Bridge.

And the West Indies could yet put a largely disappointing tour of England behind them in this format.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Ireland, who have both enjoyed shock wins on the global stage in the past, will dream of further upsets although, with both Scotland and the Netherlands taking part, there is also the capacity for some hugely lopsided results too.

For the first time the corresponding women's tournament will run in parallel with the main men's event, with both finals taking place on the same day at Lord's where, thanks in part to Twenty20, permanent floodlights are now a feature of the ground.

The tournament gets underway on June 5.

Topics : Cricket Sreesanth
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