By Callistus Davy
Pic by Sanka Vidanagama
Home crowds, familiar or unfamiliar pitches and big names will count for nothing when the World T-20 championship unfurls in Sri Lanka on September 18.
None of the experts are willing to burn their fingers predicting the outcome and as Asia hosts the most popular version of cricket, Sri Lanka holds many unseen factors that make the 12-nation showpiece the most unpredictable to date.
“Any team can do it. The shorter it (cricket) gets the more challengers there are. I think there are about eight teams that can win the tournament”, said Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardena as he ignited the first sparks in a build-up to the event.
Sri Lanka is grouped with the unpredictable Zimbabwe and top rankers South Africa and will have no extra breathing space to qualify for the second round or Super Eights.
“Our focus right now is on the two first-round matches that we have to take one at a time and then look at the next stage. The problem lies in the first two games”, Jayawardena cautioned.
But Jayawardena may not have excuses for any failure on the part of his team to book dates in the Super Eights as Sri Lanka has selected every player needed to make up a winning combination.
With as many as five players able to bat and bowl the Sri Lankan team is a captain’s fairyland.
Among them are Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Jeewan Mendis, Tillekaratne Dilshan and Nuwan Kulasekera whose presence could mean Sri Lanka having the option of deploying a line-up short of one batsman.
“We have the bowlers and allrounders to adjust according to the pitches and it is all about picking the right players. We can even go minus a batsman”, said Jayawardena.
Sri Lanka hosts Zimbabwe on September 18 in Hambantota and South Africa three days later at the same venue.