T20 World Cup Preview - Group B

Group B contains two teams that are usually considered as dark horses. Or in New Zealand's case, sheepguys. No, not really, but they are the teams that are always said to have a chance of winning, but are never the favourites. There, I just defined 'dark horses'.

Zimbabwe is also in this group. (it had to be on a new line or no one would pay attention. I barely did)

Sri Lanka

Squad - Kumar Sangakkara (c), Muttiah Muralitharan, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Thissara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekera, Suraj Randiv, Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga, Chanaka Welagedara, Chamara Kapugedara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Chinthaka Jayasinghe.

Sri Lanka were the runners-up last year (it was just last year!) and they will want to go one better this time around, and they definitely have the players to pursue it. India and Pakistan are the cup's past winners, so it has been subcontinental teams that have been the best, the Lankans will be inspired by this. They also play their best cricket on islands, so the Caribbean may feel like home to them (superb logic, innit?).

Key Players - The bowling attack is enviable, some would call it scary. They have M&M&M&M, three of which are lethal and two of which are in superb form and one of which used to have an awesome afro. Mahela Jayawardene was fantastic in the second half of the IPL, but the question is, will he get to open? Sangakarra looked like he had found his touch in the last few games he played and will be a crucial player in whichever position he plays.

Watch out for - Sanath Jayasuriya. He hasn't had the best of times; his once super-quick reflexes seem to have slowed down. He was dropped from the Mumbai Indians side after failing to make contributions, and with Mahela doing well his position could be at risk. His opening partner Dilshan also struggled in the IPL and looked very mojo-less. Thissara Perera barely got a game for Chennai and served up several full-tosses, but he has done better for his country and will be a lower-order threat. There are some newbies in the squad - Dinesh Chandimal is a backup keeper and Chintakha Jayasinghe is a medium-pace bowling all-rounder. Hmm.

How far they will go - Should surely make the semis, though their batting needs to be able to support their bowling.

New Zealand

Squad - Daniel Vettori (c), Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Scott Styris, Aaron Redmond, Jacob Oram, Gareth Hopkins, Rob Nicol, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Shane Bond, Ian Butler.

You see the first five names in their squad and you know that they have a great batting lineup capable of big things. They didn't do very well last year - as usual, they thrashed the minnows Ireland and Scotland, and didn't win any other matches against the better sides. The batsmen like a bit of pace to smack, and they may not get this in the Carribbean. They'll probably cream Zimbabwe and lose to Sri Lanka, but I'm not making any predictions.

Key Players - Jesse Ryder and B-Mac at the top have provided many a blazing start, not many against quality attacks. Ross Taylor looked out-of-sorts in the IPL, but feed him in his legside arc and you will disappear. Dictator Dan is the man for a collapse and the lone spinner. In my opinion, he's definitely among the top 3 T20 bowlers, and everyone's favourite member of the fuzz, Shane Bond, is around too.

Watch out for - Does anyone else think Scott Styris and Jacob Oram are past their sell-by-date? Rob Nicol, the other all-rounder who bowls medium-pace, has a great T20 record, though he may have limited chances to impress.

How far they will go - History suggests they will reach the second stage and bow out. Knowing New Zealand, I would be wise to ignore history. They haven't won a world cup before (ODI included) and they will see this as a good opportunity to win one


Squad - Prosper Utseya (c), Brendan Taylor, Charles Coventry, Andy Blignaut, Hamilton Masakadza, Tatenda Taibu, Greg Lamb, Elton Chigumbura, Vusi Sibanda, Ray Price, Graeme Cremer, Chamu Chibhabha, Chris Mpofu, Timycen Maruma, Craig Ervine.

The minnows of this group will be looking to spring a surprise. They really won't.

Key Players - Their spinners have been effective of late, and in the Caribbean too. Prosper Utseya, Graeme Cremer, Ray Price and Greg Lamb will look to choke their opponents. Elton Chigumbura is very handy with ball and bat.

Watch out for - Andy Blignaut, the hard-hitting all-rounder, is making another comeback. Yay. Timycen Maruma, is another 'International Cricket Captain' pick, I doubt he'll get to play though.

How far they'll go - New Zealand and Sri Lanka always thrash the minnows, they're not the choking sort and will try to rack up as much as possible. Group stage exit.

Two down, two to go.