India, Sept. 26 -- The next six days of the World T20 should be about scintillating cricket. Surely, the ICC is keeping an eye on the TV ratings at events like this to guide them in the future. It's around this time that we start talking about a winner and players start thinking about winning the Cup. This is a mistake. If we are talking about climbing a mountain for the eight teams, they have only reached base camp. Their next challenge is to haul their way up the slope and reach the semis. That means looking at their next three matches in the Super Eights and, particularly, the first of those. Winning a three-match series after going one down in the first is tough. Just look at professional tennis results.
Weather the storm
Sadly, in this case, the weather may also play its part. If it rains you may get away with winning only one but make sure you know the rules. The forecast for both Pallekele and Colombo for the next five days is that there is a 40-60 percent chance of rain every day. Remembering Sri Lanka as I do, studying the draw and the start times, I'd much rather be playing the first game of the day, kicking off at 3.30pm local time, and not the second that begins at 7.30pm.
India commence their three Super Eight games at the later time. But as my old playing mate, David Steel, used to say: "You can't start against thunder."
But, no matter what is going on around the competition, it is far better to adopt a 'no excuses' mentality and an 'it is what it is' mindset. On paper, Group 2 looks stronger. You would fancy any one of these teams beating their rivals on the opposite side of the draw. Perhaps that's being a little harsh on the home side, Sri Lanka.
If you dig a little deeper, however, it's not all bad for India. At present, I feel they have the psychological edge over Pakistan in big tournaments. A dangerous statement, but it is my hedge. Similarly, if you were to ask both South Africa and Australia their favourite venue, it definitely wouldn't be the Premadasa Stadium.
India, therefore, have a distinct advantage playing both those very competitive teams - South Africa will be tougher as they appear to cope with spin quite well. Australia, always chatty opponents, are vulnerable to quality spin. Against the Aussies, India must play two spinners and even contemplate a third.
The other side of the draw, which starts on Wednesday, looks more straightforward. I expect Sri Lanka to make it but the other three teams are consistently inconsistent. England look like they can't play spin. The New Zealand batting relies too heavily on their match winners, Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor. It would also help if they got their batting order right - bat Taylor no lower than 4 and if at this stage Martin Guptill is not fit or firing, think of opening with McCullum.
That leaves us with the West Indies. In T20, they have so many match winners with the bat, two top spinning all-rounders in Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, arguably the most destructive spinner in Sunil Narine and a workman-like seam attack.
There is no doubting their talent but questions hang over their ambition. Recently, under the leadership of Darren Sammy and coaching of Ottis Gibson, they seem to have become a tougher and more resilient unit. If they do not reach the semis, though, it will mark a failure for the squad.
For cricket to be in the best of health, we need a West Indies team that is strong and vibrant so they can add some wonderful Calypso flavour that our game has missed for a while.
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The writer is former India & NZ coach
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.