T20 World Cup: Tractor's preview
Oh. The World Twenty20 tournament starts in a couple of weeks? That had genuinely passed me by. I knew there was one somewhere in the vaguely defined future but I only checked it out when I was told this month’s Addis Army newsletter would focus on previewing the tournament.
Now I don’t know whether it’s just me, but I find it hard to get my head round the ever-changing formats of the ODI World Cup, Champions Trophy and World T20. And then I just don’t bother watching because I hate now knowing what’s going on. So here’s my guide to the tournament, navigating the groups and schedule like the Titanic through the icy seas.
The Group Stage starts it all off but this is not your normal competition format. The eight minnow nations (bit harsh to include Bangladesh in this, I can’t help but feel) have been split into two groups: Group A Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands and Oman; Group B Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Scotland and Zimbabwe.
There are two matches a day, starting at 0930 and 1400 GMT, from Tuesday 8th March through to Sunday 13th March. There’s a day of rest on Monday 14th March and then the Super Tens stage begins on Tuesday 15th.
The winner of Group Stage Group A will join Super Tens Group 2 (keep up with your group nomenclature, people!). I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest that Ireland will be that team. No real reasons for this – I think apart from Oman it’s a pretty open group with Ireland, Bangladesh and the Netherlands all capable of winning given their previous performances in ICC tournaments. Group Stage Group B, though, is a very different kettle of fish. None of its teams has a real performance record and I think the ICC has failed in the disparity between the two groups. Let’s say, though, that Afghanistan go through, if only because no one can dislike an Afghan national cricket team!
So on to the Super Tens, which in my fictionalised scenario will see groups as follows: Group 1 England, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and West Indies; Group 2 Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Ireland.
Now as well as the groups becoming about as complicated as negotiating Spaghetti Junction on a left-handed bicycle, the match schedule becomes less predictable here, too. This annoys me for the principal reason that if you work long hours without broadcast access, it can be pretty difficult to immerse yourself in a limited overs tournament. It’s a problem Test cricket doesn’t have; in fact, one of the great strengths of the five day format is precisely that you can dip in and out as other commitments allow.
The only way I’ve been able to enjoy football and rugby world cups is to trust in the repeated pattern of match timings, and that rather goes out of the window from Tuesday 15th March. Some days there are two matches and on others only one. Some days the single match begins at 0930 GMT and other days it’s a 1400 start. England play on the 16th, 18th, 23rd and 26th March, with the first pair of matches in Mumbai and the second in Delhi, so at least there’s not too much travelling involved, for the squad or the fans.
There will be 35 matches all together in the tournament, with the ICC clearly trying to harness fans’ desire for associate nations to be involved while also limiting fan-fatigue. I’m not sure they’ve found the right formula, but we’ll wait and see on that front.
Timings in the latter stages go out of the window for me as I’ll be sunning myself on a Philippine beach, but don’t forget the clocks go forward just after England’s last group game.
Now that I’ve got my head round it, and I hope you have too, I’m looking forward to keeping up with as many games as possible, even if they are being played at the least helpful times for my working hours. Everyone who can watch will, I’m sure, be treated to the usual big hits, close calls and last-ball run chases. We can only hope England manage better than right now where, as I type, we are heading to a 10 wicket defeat to South Africa.