COLOMBO: Team profiles and squad lists ahead of the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, which starts on Tuesday (tomorrow).
Little has changed about Pakistan’s cricketers over the years. They remain as unpredictable as ever, capable of losing badly one day and then beating the same side comfortably the next day. And the talent never dries up, whether it is finding young batsmen such as Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali, or adding to their crop of promising fast bowlers like Junaid Khan.
Pakistan’s World Twenty20 record also shows they are a side not to be taken lightly. They were runners-up to India in the inaugural edition in 2007, won the next one in England in 2009 and lost in the semi-finals of the last tournament in the Caribbean a year later.
Pakistan have a strong batting line-up with the recalled Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez at the top of the order, with Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq providing a power-packed middle-order. They also have one of the most potent bowling attacks, with seamer Umar Gul backed by prolific spinner Saeed Ajmal, Afridi and Hafeez.
Pakistan squad: Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, Asad Shafiq, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanveer, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Raza Hasan, Yasir Arafat, Mohammad Sami.
England defend the World Twenty20 title they won in the Caribbean two years ago without 2010 man of the tournament Kevin Pietersen, who remains in international exile after repeated run-ins with team officials.
Much will depend on how the likes of Alex Hales, effectively Pietersen’s replacement, and the rest of the top order cope on the kind of spin-friendly pitches where England’s batsmen have so often struggled in the past.
Left-arm spinner Danny Briggs, a star performer for English domestic Twenty20 champions Hampshire, could be important especially if experienced off-spinner Graeme Swann remains troubled by an elbow problem.
Pace bowling all-rounder Stuart Broad, one of eight survivors from the 2010 squad, captains the side, with Jade Dernbach’s various slower deliveries set for their sternest test yet.
England squad: Stuart Broad (captain), Jonathan Bairstow, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Jos Buttler, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Craig Kieswetter, Michael Lumb, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, Luke Wright.
Former champions and one-day World Cup-holders India will bank on their depth in batting and cancer survivor Yuvraj Singh’s all-round excellence to regain glory in the shortest format of the game.
India won the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007, but couldn’t live up to their billing in the next two editions as they failed to qualify for the semi-finals in England and the West Indies.
Batting will be India’s main strength as Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj and Dhoni are all capable of dominating any attack with their exciting strokeplay.
Yuvraj impressed with his power-hitting in the inaugural edition, smashing six sixes in an over from England paceman Stuart Broad at Durban in his 16-ball 58 to set up his team’s victory. He also played a big role in India’s 50-over World Cup triumph at home last year, scoring 362 runs and grabbing 15 wickets in nine matches to be named man of the tournament.
The spotlight will also be on off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who is making a comeback after being ignored since August last year.
India squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Ashok Dinda, Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh, Manoj Tiwary.
Afghanistan’s rise in world cricket is one of the most exciting developments in a sport that is attempting to break new ground. It was less than a decade ago that the war-ravaged nation began taking cricket seriously and their rapid progress has been widely acclaimed. They go to Sri Lanka for their second World Twenty20, having made their debut in the Caribbean two years ago. They were also just one victory short of qualifying for last year’s 50-overs World Cup.
Twenty20 cricket suits the maverick style of Afghan cricketers. Their batsmen are not afraid to play shots in the air and take great delight in smashing the best bowlers out of the ground. The batsmen to watch out for are opener Karim Sadiq, wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad, Mohammad Nabi and Asghar Stanikzai, who are all attractive strokemakers.
Skipper Nawroz Mangal leads the spin attack alongside Sadiq and Samiullah Shenwari, while the big-built Shapoor Zadran and Dawlat Zadran are new-ball bowlers capable of striking vital blows. Both England and India can ill-afford to take the Afghans lightly in the preliminary group stage.
Afghanistan squad: Nawroz Mangal (captain), Dawlat Zadran, Gulbodin Naib, Hamid Hassan, Izatullah Dawlatzai, Karim Sadiq, Javed Ahmadi, Mohammad Nasim Baras, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shahzad, Asghar Stanikzai, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Shapoor Zadran.
For such a highly successful cricket nation, Australia’s modest Twenty20 record is a blemish. They have won four 50-over World Cups but their best finish in three previous World Twenty20 tournaments was as runner-up to England in 2010. When the International Cricket Council ratings were updated last month, Australia were ranked ninth, below New Zealand and Bangladesh.
George Bailey leads the Twenty20 squad to Sri Lanka looking to win the only major title that has eluded Australia. Desperate situations call for desperate measures and 41-year-old left-armer Brad Hogg has been brought in to bolster the spin attack.
If Hogg will be the oldest player in the competition, 19-year-old fast bowler Pat Cummins will be one of the youngest. Cummins, Clint McKay, Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Starc will form the pace attack with support from all-rounders Daniel Christian and Shane Watson.
The hard-hitting Cameron White has also been brought back in a middle-order that includes the Hussey brothers, David and Michael, while David Warner is expected to provide an aggressive start.
Australia squad: George Bailey (captain), David Warner, Shane Watson, Matthew Wade, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Cameron White, Daniel Christian, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Hogg, Xavier Doherty, Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Ben Hilfenhaus.
The best performance by the West Indies in the three previous editions of World Twenty20 came in England in 2009, when they reached the semi-finals. But no rival will take the West Indies lightly in Sri Lanka due to what many refer to as the “Indian Premier League (IPL) effect”.
The IPL has thrown up several match-winners from the Caribbean in the shortest format of the game. Any side that possesses explosive batsmen such as Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, backed by solid all-rounders in Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Andre Russell, and a superb spinner in Sunil Narine, can never be counted out.
Attacking cricket, the hallmark of the West Indies game, is ideally suited to the Twenty20 version. And with conditions in Sri Lanka — slow, batsmen-oriented wickets — similar to those in the IPL, the West Indies will not find it tough to adjust. Darren Sammy’s men are capable of springing a few surprises.
West Indies squad: Darren Sammy (captain), Dwayne Bravo, Samuel Badree, Darren Bravo, Johnson Charles, Fidel Edwards, Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith.
Ireland, with two former Test players in their backroom staff now that ex-Australia paceman Craig McDermott has joined West Indian coach Phil Simmons, will be in search of fresh giant-killing success to match their one-day international exploits.
Their squad has plenty of subcontinental experience, with Kevin O’Brien having compiled the fastest-ever hundred in the 50-over World Cup during Ireland’s stunning win over England in Bangalore last year.
William Porterfield, the captain and one of several county cricketers in the squad, will aim to lead from the front with the bat, as newcomer Tim Murtagh looks to bolster a seam attack featuring Australia-born veteran Trent Johnston.
Much will be expected of talented Somerset left-arm spinner George Dockrell, 20, on Sri Lankan pitches renowned for taking turn.
Ireland squad: William Porterfield (captain), Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Trent Johnston, Nigel Jones, Ed Joyce, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Max Sorensen, Stuart Thompson, Andrew White, Gary Wilson.
To be continued