Of the four groups at the ICC World Twenty20 starting September 18, Group D can be considered as the ‘group of death’ because there are no apparent weak links. Pakistan, New Zealand and Bangladesh are clubbed together and all the three teams have experience in the Twenty20 format.
Compared to other groups, where the presence of a minnow team provides assurance of easy points, here Bangladesh is the unpredictable side with the reputation of creating upsets in bigger tournaments. Undoubtedly, the 2009 champions Pakistan are the clear favourites, but on the other hand New Zealand in Twenty20 are a force to reckon. As proven numerous times since its inception, the Twenty20 format is wildly unpredictable.
Bangladesh are no longer an underdog side, especially in Twenty20. With the likes of Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mashrafe Mortaza, Abdur Razzak and Nasir Hossain, this is a very talented Twenty20 team. If Bangladesh move beyond the Super Eights it would not come as a shock.
Pakistan go into the World Twenty as serious contenders for the title, but there is no denial of the fact that as a team they are well blended with youth and experience. They bat deep with experienced allrounders in Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Malik and a fast-bowling trio in Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir and Mohammad Sami is an asset. The trump card, however, is the offspin of Saeed Ajmal who has the ability to win matches single-handedly. There should not be a second opinion on Pakistan advancing to the Super Eights, and even to the summit.
New Zealand don’t inspire nearly as much hope until and unless they play out of their skins. They have some potential and tremendous match-winners in their line-up who have dazzled in the IPL but are inconsistent for their national team. That is the trouble with this team.
The positive is the form of Brendon McCullum who against India this week in Chennai hit a match-winning 91 off 51 balls, and the return of Daniel Vettori from an injury lay-off. The wily left-arm spinner is the mainstay of spin department and very handy in the lower middle order. If New Zealand nurse hopes of reaching the Super Eights, they need to be consistent with their team selection and pick players ideal for the slam-bang form of cricket.
Match one - Bangladesh vs New Zealand, Sept 21, Pallekele This can be a tricky first outing for New Zealand and going by history, Bangladesh have the reputation of being giant-killers. Riding on narrow T20 win against India recently, New Zealand would be a confident outfit, but Bangladesh with the experience of the Bangladesh Premier League are an improved and confident side in this format. Both teams have match-winners in their ranks, but going by the sheer vulnerability of Twenty20 this can be anybody’s game and a win here for any team can set the momentum for the rest of the tournament.
Match two - New Zealand vs Pakistan, Sept 23, Pallekele Here too, New Zealand seem to be cornered provided they come into this match with a win or else a loss here will be the end of road for them in the World Twenty20. Pakistan, won’t want to start their campaign on a losing note even though they are the favourites here. While Pakistan outweigh New Zealand on paper, the Kiwis are a competitive unit with Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor and Daniel Vettori who can turn things in their favour.
Match three - Bangladesh vs Pakistan, Sept 25, Pallekele Pakistan will know that Bangladesh cannot be taken lightly given their growth in their game. The recent success of Pakistan can be attributed to their spin attack, but to counter this Bangladesh have some quality batsmen of spin bowling and also have decent spinners to return the favour. Again Pakistan go into this match as winners, but it is too early to take Bangladesh out of content_cnion.