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West Indies will be hard-pressed to retain World Twenty20 title

The World Twenty20 starts this week with a host of countries vying to dethrone West Indies. Long gone are the years when West Indies dominated Test cricket, but they have prevailed in the shorter T20 format. Do they have what it takes to retain their title?

West Indies have a mountain to climb if they are to become the first back-to-back champions because they are in a very tough group, which includes India, Pakistan and Australia. Normally, one would consider West Indies a shoo-in for a semi-final spot as the top two automatically go through. However, I doubt they will have things their own way this time around.

In Australia, they will come up against one of the most in-form teams in the world. The Australians are riding on a high after recently beating England and South Africa in Test-match cricket and then narrowly defeating South Africa in a rain-affected T20 match two days ago.

Set a target of 80 in seven overs, Australia reached the winning total with two balls to spare. They are in devastating form right now and, for me, are one of the favourites to win the tournament. Key player to watch is opening bat David Warner, as he can get Australia off to some flying starts.

Pakistan will be no slouches, either, because playing on wickets that are conducive to spin bowling will be an added bonus. In Shahid Afridi, they have a match-winner, but the key player in my eyes for Pakistan is captain Mohammad Hafeez, as his contribution with both bat and ball will be crucial to how Pakistan fare. Playing in familiar conditions with an enormous support base will give Pakistan a massive lift and make them tough to beat.

Also in West Indies' group are the ever-dangerous India. They will be tough opponents for various reasons. First, they are very familiar with the conditions; second, they have a very well-balanced team with a wide variety of spin bowling; and third, like Pakistan, they will have a huge fanbase.

The question is which India team will show up? The India who are ruthless and unbeatable or the inconsistent version who buckle under pressure? Key player to watch for them is Virat Kohli, “The run machine”.

West Indies will also play the winner of group A in the second qualifying tournament, which begins on Sunday. That group consists of Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal and Hong Kong. Bangladesh are firm favourites to win the group and playing at home will make them dangerous opponents against anyone.

West Indies as defending champions can never be overlooked when playing T20 cricket. The last time this tournament was played back in 2012, they beat a strong Sri Lanka team in the final, but this time the challenge will be to get out of their group.

In Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy and Marlon Samuels, they have three of the most dangerous hitters around, but how will they cope against the spin and the pressure of playing in front of thousands of screaming fans?

On their day, West Indies are capable of beating any team in the tournament, but with India first, followed by Australia, they could not have asked for a tougher start. Key player to watch is none other than Dwayne Bravo. He is electrifying: talented with both bat and ball.

There is no doubt that this is the tougher of the two groups. While batting and bowling will be key, these games could be so tight that the team who field the best could determine the winner. West Indies could find the going tough, especially without the injured Kieron Pollard, but they are a team who feed off momentum. If they beat India, they could go on to retain their title, but if they lose with to play Australia next, their tournament could be over even before it starts.

My prediction is a Sri Lanka versus Australia final.

Quote of the week: “In sports, you simply aren't considered a real champion until you have defended your title successfully. Winning it once can be a fluke; winning it twice proves you are the best.”

– Althea Gibson

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Published March 14, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 14, 2014 at 2:40 am)

West Indies will be hard-pressed to retain World Twenty20 title

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