In Focus International Cricket

ACC TWENTY20 CUP: ALL TO PLAY FOR

‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away and the Lord putteth back again’, the upshot of this year’s ICC Annual Conference was that the two non-Full members in 2010 at the World Twenty20 who were going to be four in 2012 are again going to be just two.

Which just makes the next ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier all the more critical. Especially as its been expanded to give as many worthy teams as possible a chance. Three ACC teams from this event, plus Afghanistan, are going to have a chance to qualify for the biggest competitions of their lives. As one who accompanied the Afghanistan team to the last World Twenty20, let me tell you, it is a very big deal for any player. It is a fulfillment of all that one dreams of achieving by matching one’s heroes, it is a fulfillment of that wonderful process called cricket development.

Nepal are at home in front of crowds of 10,000+ who will be 100% behind them, but even if they were not, they’re a team that must be favoured. Their track record at ACC level has been consistently good – the last ACC T20 in 2009 showed them to be wanting on hard wickets at this unclassical format but they’ve wakened to new realities, even the bowlers have been specifically practicing unorthodox run-bumping shots and have a flurry of spinners who can wreak havoc on the slow, low turners which are the norm in Nepal. Added to that, they have players of immense talent and heart and are led by Paras Khadka, who, if he had been born in a Test-playing country, could have been a cricketer of the very highest level.

But Nepal are in what is a very tough Group – Hong Kong, UAE and Kuwait are a match for anyone and could go all the way themselves. UAE – class, grace, finesse and match-toughness. We’ve mentioned Paras Khadka, UAE’s captain Khurram Khan is someone else who, if he’d spent more time in Pakistan could well have been in some kind of representative side. He has ‘The Right Stuff’ for sure. Hong Kong have plenty of their own street smarts and if they actually maximize all of their abilities could easily be one of the two teams to go through from this group to the semi-finals. Kuwait – well, they bemuse even their most ardent supporters with their consistent inconsistency. They’re missing big names and big-hitters but those who remain, if they’re fit, if they play with their heads, if they actually play as well as they can – they could beat anybody on their day. Saudi Arabia always suffer in high-intensity tournaments after making bright starts just because of fitness issues, nevertheless they can beat anybody on their day.

Group A – defending champions Afghanistan are already through to the World Cup Qualifier in Dubai next March by virtue of their ODI status but anything less than victory in the overall competition will have people thinking they are slipping from their hard-won much deserved eminence. The team have had an up-and-down year, UAE had the better of them in the recent ICC Intercontinental Cup matches but they are still a side packed with players any other side would welcome with open arms such is their talent, skill and work-rate. In pace-bowler Hamid Hassan and off-spinning all-rounder Mohammad Nabi they have players who could walk into any country’s first-class side and the others are very close behind them too. Yet question marks this year, about preparation and game-sense, still remain. Difficult to pick out one Player of the Tournament at this stage, especially when he doesn’t bowl, but Shabir Noori is a batsman who is the most talented I have ever seen at this level and is a match-winner.

Oman have The Coach now. Roy Dias, having left Nepal after 10 years of immense success is now with the Gulf state and given what we know of this team of seasoned campaigners, who play with fire and finesse and are well led by left-arm spinner Hemal Mehta, Oman could well get their hands back on the cup they last won in 2007. Malaysia are one of the ACC’s perennial semi-finalists/5th or 6th and this time, with their mix of old and young, could easily be semi-finalists again. Maldives, new at this ACC Elite level, are riding a wave of success and self-confidence and if they just play error-free cricket are going to be capable of upsetting anyone. Bhutan are triers. Brave triers. They’re getting better year by year and if, just if, their bowlers can pin sides down have enough grit and determination to win tight matches.

Hong Kong and Maldives have been preparing for the event in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan’s batsmen have been at an ICC High-Performance Programme Camp in India. The others have all been hard at it in their home countries. A semi-final berth is a big prize.

Morning conditions should favour the faster bowler and on these wickets, with sides who are going to be fielding three, if not four spinners, 130 is a par score and 140’s going to win more matches than it loses. Given some sides’ bowling strength, 100 is defendable. Batting’s going to be difficult and it won’t be the ones who can clear the ropes who are going to prevail but the ones who can regularly find the gaps.

You’ve got to be good to get ahead at this level, you’ve got to be better than good to get to a World Cup. All to play for. May Asia’s best be at their best.

Nepal TV are broadcasting all of Nepal’s matches, starting with the game against Hong Kong on Saturday December 3rd, and one semi-final and the Final live and there will be ball-by-ball scoring on Cricnepal as well as commentary on the Cricnepal’s facebook page.

Originally copied from :http://www.asiancricket.org/index.php/news/december-2011/2299

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