Chris Gayle and the West Indies
A tournament billed as the grave yard of bowlers, a batsman’s paradise, got off to exactly that start when Chris Gayle shrugged off his poor form of recent times and smashed the first T20 international hundred, scoring his 100 off just 51 balls, and finishing with 117 off 57 balls, including 10 sixes and 7 fours. However, once again the West Indies managed to disappoint, allowing South Africa to claim a record chase, over hauling the total of 205 with 8 wickets and 14 balls to spare. In so doing the West Indies provided a best moment and a worst moment of the T20 World Cup. Gayles scintillating performance was the best show of brute force and timing, and the West Indies general performance, they followed up this loss by losing to Bangladesh and being eliminated in the first round, was the biggest disappointment.
The New Guys on the Block
Every big tournament tends to offer the chance for the spotlight to be stolen by a new or previously unheralded star. The last few tournaments have sadly not offered us to much in this case, but rather just highlighted the gulf that existed between Australia and the rest. However this World Cup did throw out a few names for us to remember, none more so than Pakistans Sohail Tanvir, and South Africa’s Morne Morkel.
Tanvir was called up to the Pakistan squad as a late replacement for the yet again disgraced Shoaib Akhtar, as a relative unknown to those outside of Pakistan. The left handed all rounder, with the unorthodox front on bowling style, has only played 19 first class games in 3 years and in domestic T20 games had yet to take a single wicket. Despite this he was a revelation with the ball throughout the tournament, taking 6 wickets at an economy rate of 7,00. While many have suggested that his success was due to his unusual action, and once batsman get used to him they will be able to play him better, for now he has undoubtedly been one of the stars of this World Cup.
Morne Morkel. the tall fast bowler from the Titans in Pretoria, looks set to have a major influence on South African cricket in the near future. He has played one Test and a handful of ODI’s, and his inexperience was said to be a weakness in the South African bowling attack. However the young fast bowler proved to be one of the leading bowlers in the competition, and one that looks to have a very bright career ahead of him, with controlled aggression, wicket taking, and economical bowling, he is truly Shaun Pollocks successor. Was robbed of the chance to become the first bowler in T20 internationals to claim a 5 wicket haul when he was wrongfully called for a front foot no ball after bowling New Zealands Mark Gillespie. Finished with 9 wickets in 5 games at an average of just 13,33 at an economy rate of just 6,00.
While Bangladesh’s victory over West Indies was an upset, it was hardly a surprise. The West Indies are perhaps the most inconsistent side in cricket, and Bangladesh, having progressed to the Super 8 phase of the last two international competitions, have earned the right to not be called minnows any more. The biggest upset was Zimbabwe defeating the mighty Australians in their opening game. Australia may have arrived rusty and not quite sure how serious this World Cup was, but they should have still been strong enough to get past a young Zimbabwean team that had been the whipping boys of international cricket over the last few years. Zimbabwe played with a lot of guts and determination, and although they lost to England the next day, to be eliminated on run rate, they showed enough in this one match to suggest that a few more wins may give them the confidence to become a good cricket team, there is enough talent in the squad for this to happen.
The most refreshing aspect of the tournament was the captaincy of Shoib Malik and MS Dhoni. Captaining two of the most unpredictable, talented, and fickle teams in World Cricket is a daunting one, yet these two young players brought a sense of calmness and togetherness to the job. They never shied from responsibility, lead from the front, and managed to unite their teams in a way that was seldom been seen. The success of their teams, both reached the final and both beat Australia, was undoubtedly primarily due to their leadership, and the confidence it inspired in their young squads. If they build on this there is no reason why India and Pakistan can once again become a force to be reckoned with in international cricket, bringing a sense of justice to perhaps the most talented individuals in world cricket.
The match winning performances of the bowlers was a surprise to many, who had expected this to be a batsman game, with the bowlers making up the numbers. However, with that in mind, and short boundaries, perhaps the biggest surprise was the success of the spin bowlers. Shahid Afridi and Daniel Vettori both finished amongst the top wicket takers and best economy rates, proving the quality spin bowling will always be a match winner, no matter what form of the game. Afridi was named player of the tournament.
Most Predictable Outcome
Generally in the last few years the easiest thing to predict would be the eventual winners – Australia. Thankfully this time the holders of the last 3 World Cups, the ICC Championship winners, the current Test table toppers, and the team vying to hold all ICC title’s together, did not win this time. However, sadly for them these two teams, perhaps the most predictable outcome was the failure of South Africa when it mattered most, and of New Zealand to get past the semi finals. South Africa had looked the strongest and most balanced team in the World Cup, but it only took one loss, to India, to knock them out before the semi finals, and ensure their search for a first major trophy continues. New Zealand seem to get to the semi finals of every major competition, and then collapse. Although they didn’t look as strong as South Africa, they had looked dangerous throughout the tournament, even beating India in the Super 8’s. Yet again they reached the semi finals, and yet again they failed to reach the final.
Perhaps another predictable outcome was that Shoaib Akhtar would arrive, tell everyone how focused he was on ensuring Pakistan won, tell everyone he has put all the scandals behind him and is looking forward to helping Pakistan over the next few years, and then finding himself on the plane home the following day after hitting a teammate with a cricket bat.