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World Twenty20 winner is anyone’s guess

World Twenty20 winner is anyone’s guess
The World Twenty20 explodes into action this week in tropical Sri Lanka with no runaway favourite and upsets are likely to happen in cricket’s shortest and least predictable form. At least half of the 12 participating nations will consider themselves strong contenders to lift the trophy in Colombo on October 7, with the others hopeful of living up to the event’s reputation for shocks.

From defending champions England, the powerful West Indies and formidable South Africa to Asia’s top three, former winners India and Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the field is strong and deep. The others won’t be taken lightly either, if a string of sensational results in the tournament’s three previous editions are any indication.

While many purists are unconvinced by Twenty20, and fear the impact on Test cricket, there’s no doubting its entertainment value. India, initially reluctant to embrace the newest format, won the inaugural event in South Africa in 2007 under rookie skipper MS Dhoni after senior pros Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly opted out. It was in the same tournament that Zimbabwe stunned Australia, Bangladesh upset the West Indies and India brushed aside England, South Africa, Australia and Pakistan in successive games to grab the title.

Pakistan won the second edition in England in 2009, a tournament that made a stunning start when the Netherlands, a non Test-playing nation, upset the hosts by four wickets in front of a packed house at Lord’s. England claimed the 2010 title in the Caribbean but it was Australia’s amazing win over Pakistan in the semifinal that remained the talking point.

With 34 needed from the final two overs, Michael Hussey smashed 38 off 10 balls to take Australia home with one delivery to spare. Only last week, Australia trounced Pakistan by 94 runs to avenge two successive defeats against the same opponents.

The 12 sides have been divided into four pools for the preliminary league, with the top two from each advancing to the Super Eights round. If the seedings go to plans, fans can expect high-voltage action in the Super Eights, a week-long race to the one-off semis and final in the Sri Lankan capital.

England, the West Indies, Sri Lanka and New Zealand are seeded to meet in group one of the Super Eights, with the top two teams making it to the semifinals. Group two is already being billed as ‘Group of Death’, with arch-rivals India and Pakistan seeded to face Australia and South Africa.

Sri Lanka’s frontline batsman Kumar Sangakkara cautioned rivals not to expect spin-friendly pitches at the three venues in Colombo, steamy hill town Pallekele and Hambantota, site of a major new port.

The West Indies are touted as potential champions, with explosive batsmen in Chris Gayle, the Demolition man, Kieron Pollard and Marlon Samuels, the destroyers, and a wily spinner in Sunil Narine, star of IPL 5.

Ace Indian all-rounder Yuvraj Singh is assured of a warm welcome from the stands, having battled cancer earlier this year to return to the big stage. 
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