World T20 agony brief, but Australians awful
HAMISH BIDWELL IN CHITTAGONG
Ahead of the first World Twenty20 tournament semifinal, in the early hours of tomorrow morning, Hamish Bidwell offers his impressions of the group stage.
One thing this tournament did well was not prolong the agony. Two groups of five, largely competitive teams and a short, sharp round robin ahead of semifinals was good. Last time round there were groups, then Super 8s and then off to the playoffs.
Attention spans aren't long these days - we wouldn't even have Twenty20 if that weren't the case - so packing the schedule with relevant, quality matches was sound thinking. As was seeding eight teams and letting the other two qualify in advance. The Netherlands' 45-run win over England was ample justification of that policy.
The quality of the pitches negated that, somewhat. Take Chittagong, where Group One was based. They had a good-sized block there, but only used two strips.
When Sri Lanka beat New Zealand by 59 runs on the final evening of Group One play, it was on a wicket that was being played on for the seventh time.
Hong Kong and Nepal had met on it during the qualifying tournament, before three double-headers during the event-proper.
The name of this game is big hits, yet none of the four teams who appeared on that final day at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium could hit the ball off the block. They would have on a fresher pitch.
Australia have to go home with the dubious honour of being the worst team at the tournament. Bangladesh didn't win a game and England frequently resembled a rabble, but neither of those sides came into the event as the unbackable title favourite.
Australia did and went home having only beaten Bangladesh. Selection, tactics and poor form cruelled them. Shane Watson, player of the tournament last time, didn't fire a shot, nor did David Warner or Aaron Finch.
They persevered with quick bowlers who weren't effective and paid for not picking a reliable limited overs' spinner like Xavier Doherty. Captain George Bailey seems a nice guy, but we know where they finish.
DON'T CUSS ME, MAN
Any mention of Australia's campaign wouldn't be complete without bringing in Chris Gayle. Often as inscrutable as a corpse, Gayle went off in unprecedented fashion, following his team's six-wicket win over the Aussies.
His reaction, and that of Darren Sammy and Dwayne Bravo, was easily the highlight of the group phase. The West Indies really don't like this Australian team, especially James Faulkner, who has history with Gayle.
The big Jamaican opener had been sleepwalking through the tournament till that point, but Australia woke him and the Windies up and they might yet defend their title.
15 DEGREES MY...
Be it training or warmups, you can't get away from the sight of coaches - a baseball mitt on one hand and a ball in the other - shuffling in off a couple of paces and then throwing the ball at batsmen with an off-break release.
They could bowl it, presumably, but why bother when most bowlers don't? I'm sorry, but the actions of almost all the ''offies'' at this tournament have been dubious beyond belief.
Brendon McCullum didn't out any chuckers, but talked after New Zealand's exit of how hard it was to juggle his bowling resources without the aid of the ''mystery spinner'' other captains can throw the ball to.
Might be time for Black Caps batting coach - and world famous throw down provider - Bob Carter to make his playing debut.
WHAT NZ DO NEED
In lieu of a spinner more ''mysterious'' than Nathan McCullum, the Black Caps should look to start the next World T20 event with more than three batsmen.
The team had most bases covered, but if one of Kane Williamson, Brendon McCullum or Ross Taylor didn't go big, then New Zealand were destined to lose.
The team possessed guys who could hit you a quick 20, but not many actual match-winning batsmen. There must be some around, surely?
What do you make of the recent crackdown on chucking in cricket?