T20 World Cup Preview: Group A

Right. So the T20 World Cup is only a week away, and with this mini-break from the IPL, it only seems appropriate to start posting about it. Rather than do the 'one team a post' thing which would take ages, I'll be doing it group-by-group. And staying true to the alphabet, I begin with Group A, which consists of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Australia. This being the only group to have three test teams, you could somewhat call it the "group of death", or "Qu'est-ce que c'est, le cricket?" as the French say.


Squad - Shahid Afridi (c), Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Fawad Alam, Hammad Azam, Kamran Akmal, Khalid Latif, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammed Aamer, Mohammed Asif, Mohammed Hafeez, Mohammed Sami, Saeed Ajmal, Salman Butt, Umar Akmal.

The defending champions are one of the most unpredictable teams - they could play like champs one day and chimps the next, but in this format they are always in the game. Umar Gul, Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved may be missing, but this squad is full of talented players, many of them suited to T20. Shahid Afridi may be a total nutjob, but he seems to be able to inspire his team.

Key players - Afridi stepped up with the bat to help Pakistan win the cup last year - will he retain his maturity or switch back to crazy-mode? His bowling will be effective either way. Abdul Razzaq is a top all-rounder, and Misbah's experience is invaluable. The pace trio of Aamer, Asif and Sami (should he play) is good enough to contain any team upfront, while Ajmal is miserly in the middle overs.

Watch out for - Hammad Azam featured for Pakistan in the U-19 version of the tournament and was considered to be talented enough to make the cut. His first-class record doesn't reveal too much, but he is a medium-pace bowling all-rounder who also opens the batting. Umar Akmal has begun his career well (cricket-wise, that is) but we haven't seen him in a while. Will he continue his good run?

How far they will go - Provided there are no hiccups against Bangladesh, they should make the second round. May struggle to go beyond that.


Squad - Shakib Al-Hasan (c), Mushfiqur Rahim, Abdur Razzak, Aftab Ahmed, Imrul Kayes, Jahurul Islam, Mahmudullah, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mohammed Ashraful, Naeem Islam, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam, Suhrawadi Shuvo, Syed Rasel, Tamim Iqbal.

They have improved vastly, there's no doubt about that, but they still lose to other test nations regularly. Regardless, this is T20 and the Banglas have a reputation of being giant-killers. One such victory in the group stage and they could be through to the second round, so it would be unwise to count them out.

Key Players - Shakib is one of the best all-rounders in the world, and he is currently Bangladesh's best batsman and bowler. Add that to the captaincy and you have all the ingredients for immense pressure, especially for a 23-year old. Will he crack or flourish under it? Time will tell. Tamim Iqbal is their most consistent batsman, and he can provide great starts for Bangladesh if he gets an opener who will stick around with him. Mahmudullah has been a consistent lower-order batsman, but he may have to be moved up the order to have more of an impact.

Watch out for - Mashrafe Mortaza was leading the pace attack not too long ago, and was even named captain, but he was then out for a long time, so it has to be seen how well he'll do on his comeback. Also, the interestingly named Suhrawadi Shuvo should be observed. He's 21, and may seem like just another of Bangladesh's fafillion lefty spinners, but he was the most successful bowler for Bangladesh in my International Cricket Captain game, so he's good. According to the game Piyush Chawla took over a 1000 test wickets and scored around 10 test hundreds, so maybe not the best way to judge player abililty.

How far they will go - Their only option is to beat Pakistan to progress to the second round, I can't see them doing any better than that.


Squad - Michael Clarke (c), Daniel Christian, Brad Haddin, Nathan Hauritz, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Dirk Nannes, Tim Paine, Steven Smith, Shaun Tait, David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White.

This a team full of match-winners. This is the only world tournament that they haven't won, so they'll be itching to add the trophy to their overflowing cabinet (which I sometimes wish would fall on the entire team). They are vulnerable though, everyone is in T20.

Key Players - The pace attack. Brett Lee is in doubt (yeah, that damn IPL), but the super quick trio of Tait, Nannes and Johnson should be tough to handle for any team. They are weak in the spin department, so Hauritz and Steve Smith will both be under scrutiny. Shane Watson and David Warner will be crucial at the top, because the middle order may be susceptible to choking.

Watch out for - Michael Clarke's T20 batting. He has never looked cut out for this format, and his "slug, not slog" approach can put the other batsmen (Husseys, White) under pressure to play the big shots from the word go. Something they are very good at, I may add.

How far they will go - If the batsmen hit their stride they could well be the champs, as the bowlers are capable of defending smaller scores as well. However, the middle order bowlers could let them down - Watson has been whipped in the IPL and the spinners are inexperienced and untested.

One down, three to go.