West Indies favourites, but this is an open World T20
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There was a time when the sub-continent was mystery, assigned darker and more exotic shades than even we were aware of. It was the land of the unknown, rendered even more so by inventive prose. You got the feeling that visiting teams were waiting for the unexpected, peculiarly they expected it, and almost ready to succumb to it. Either they weren't aware of how to combat the conditions or, more likely, were just unwilling to. A cricket tour in our part of the world brought out the best in the cricket writers, rarely in the cricketers.
A couple of days ago I saw two giant New Zealanders, they of the land that had seemed beyond the unknown to us, understand the sub-continent like it were their own. And it suddenly struck me that the mystique had gone. Jacob Oram and James Franklin seemed so at ease that they might have been bowling at Eden Park, indeed that Eden Park might seem as familiar as the Feroz Shah Kotla! The world had shrunk and India was now the playground of the cricket world. Two New Zealanders had beaten India playing an Indian game!
And so, as the World T20 begins across the Palk Strait, I wonder if knowledge of local conditions is a qualification anymore; whether slow bowlers who take the pace off the ball speak only in our accents. Wristy players with exotic shots now hail from Ireland, mystery spinners from Trinidad and even those from Dunedin and Hobart are increasingly at home in Pallekele and Visakhapatnam.
And so this is as open a World T20 as any you will see. You could argue, and you will argue fairly, that the smaller a match the more open it is anyway but in earlier editions the format was still unfamiliar and there were times when the slow, low pitches of the sub-continent could negate teams like New Zealand, South Africa and England. Not so anymore. The IPL is now five years old, the Big Bash has gathered steam, there is excitement around England's T20 and little leagues have sprung up in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. As cuisines grow global so does shortform cricket.