Twenty20 World Cup Betting: IPL2 has shown us India and Australia have all the weapons
As the curtian falls on the IPL2 on Sunday night, Ed Hawkins reflects upon the lessons learnt from it as we prepare ourselves to work out who is in good shape to win the Twenty20 World Cup.
As a thrilling Indian Premier League draws to a close - the final will take place at The Wanderers on Sunday - cricket fans could be fearing the traditional come down or void often felt after a major sporting event. What on earth will I fill my afternoons with now there are no more matches?
Worry not. The IPL was merely a warm-up for the eagerly anticipated World Twenty20, which starts on June 5. It will keep us glued to our television sets for 27 games and two weeks, ensuring that the withdrawal symptoms will be delayed.
In theory, it should be an easier tournament to call for punters - save for shocks similar to Zimbabwe's humbling of Australia in the inaugural 2007 tournament - because we do not have to worry about how a disparate group of players pulled together from every corner of the globe bond.
Indeed, before a ball has even been bowled we know that India and Australia, who head the market at [4.20] and [6.00] respectively are the strongmen of the contest thanks to what their members have achieved in the IPL. Their players have hit it farther, bowled it faster and shown the greatest mental capacity, too.
It is hard not to be wowed by the two squads, not just because who is in them, but who isn't. India could probably field three sides which would do more than compete in the Twenty20. There is no place in their squad for strong IPL performers Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Munaf Patel, Dinesh Karthik, Amit Mishra, Virat Kohli and Subra Badrinath. Not even the great Sachin Tendulkar gets a berth.
Australia are no different. How good must their crop be when Dirk Nannes, who has been brilliant for Delhi, and Brad Hodge, Kolkata's best batsman, can't get a spot?
It will not have escaped your attention either that Matt Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne are three of the most stellar performers. Hayden and Gilchrist are first and fourth respectively in the top-bat list while Warne is the eighth-most dangerous bowler. They are not in Australia's number because they have all retired from international duty but they would have surely made the Aussies unstoppable.
The other argument is that Australia have failed to take as much notice of the IPL as they should have when selecting their squad and should have offered a hand to their past masters.
One team that has paid close attention is South Africa, who trade at [5.70]. Graeme Smith's side (who himself has disappointed) is a who's who of IPL2 superstars.
AB de Villiers has overshadowed Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag for [3.25] shots Delhi, Herschelle Gibbs has helped kickstart Deccan while Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher have been pivotal in turning round Bangalore's fortunes. And in Yusuf Abdulla they have a swing bowler who could be lethal in English conditions. The King's XI Punjab paceman has an incredible strike rate of a wicket every 12 balls.
Not all the international stars have covered themselves in glory, however. If King's XI fail to make the semis - which they look almost certain to after defeat to Chennai, who are now favourites at [3.20] - then Sri Lanka may arrive in England with confidence on the floor.
Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara but have just not fired while Sanath Jayasuriya and Lasith Malinga could not inspire Mumbai. It does not look good for them with four such 'big game' players not making the impact that was expected.
However, there is really only one international side to come out of the IPL without any credit whatsoever. Step forward England, who appear to have managed the impossible feat of being virtual bystanders in a format they invented. For the English the IPL was like a proud parent turning up at their son's graduation from Oxbridge only to be told that he had disowned them.
While other teams basked in the reflective glory, England suffered humiliation after humiliation: their talismanic all-rounder, Andrew Flintoff, appears twice in the top 11 of the worst innings bowling analysis; their best batsman, Kevin Pietersen averaged just 15 for Bangalore, who improved markedly when he left the team; and perhaps most embarrassingly of all, their captain, Paul Collingwood, was not even given a game for Delhi.
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