Sunday, April 14, 2024

The party begins

Sri Lanka face Zimbabwe in opening World T20 match
The stage is all set for the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. The fourth version of the tournament will kick off with hosts Sri Lanka taking on Zimbabwe at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in Hambantota today. There will be no glamorous opening ceremony to mark the start of the showpiece event, but many would argue that the fireworks have already begun in the form of the competitive warm-up games which bode well for the quality of the tournament to follow.
Twenty-over matches, the shortest version of cricket, was born of a need to bring the fans to the ground and it has since mushroomed into a commercial venture for many countries. India’s success in the inaugural edition of the T20 World Cup changed the whole scenario. But the question here has been whether the stands will be full during this tournament. The World Cup is certainly a talking point in Sri Lanka but it cannot be said that T20 fever has taken hold of the country.
There was a lot of talk about yesterday’s India-Pakistan warm-up clash in Colombo but the almost empty stands frustrated many but it was hoped that the fans will come out in droves when the tournament proper begins. But when a World Cup comes around, no matter whether it is 50 or 20 overs, there is always a buzz in the air. The cricket lovers all around the globe will be tuned in to the tournament for the next few weeks as twelve teams compete in the beautiful island country. The group matches will be played in three different cities — Colombo, Kandy and Hambantota. Primarily twelve teams split into four groups will fight it out for right of entry to the eight-team second round. Two top teams from each group will qualify for the Super Eight groups. England will try to defend their title while India and favourites Pakistan play to regain the trophy, but there are other teams like hosts Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa and West Indies who can write new history. And as the saying goes, there is no favourite in this version of cricket, so teams like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland can pull off some surprises.
Cricket lovers will not only talk about the winners and losers but they will also keep their eyes on individual players like power hitters Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and David Warner as well as batsmen with the silky touch like Mahela Jayawerdene, Hashim Amla and also new Indian sensation Virat Kohli. And who knows, a new star can emerge from this tournament.
Cricket enthusiasts will be looking forward to the memories that only World Cups seem able to create, even in a format where matches tend to meld one into another. Exploits of previous editions — Yuvraj Singh’s six sixes in an over in 2007, Shahid Afridi’s all-round brilliance in 2009, and Kevin Pietersen’s sublime batsmanship in 2010 — are still fresh in the minds of many of the game’s lovers.
Sri Lanka is known not only for its natural beauty and the laidback nature of its cities and citizens, but also the parties in the stands which define cricket in the island. All will be hoping that the party will be on in earnest from today.

-With The Daily Star input

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