The Money is on...

Written by Daksh Panwar | daksh panwar | Updated: Jun 1 2009, 04:39am hrs
The entire country erupted as Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co pipped Pakistan in an edge-of-the-seat finale to win the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007, Indias first major silverware after over two decades when Sunil Gavaskar led the team to the World Championship title in 1985. After an ignominious exit from the ODI World Cup in the West Indies earlier in 2007, the result was pleasant as it was unexpected.

In two years though, India have emerged as a true cricketing superpower on and off the field. And no wonder they are the bookmakers' pre-tournament favorites going into the second edition of the WorldT20, which gets underway in England from June 5. The odds on Dhoni and his boys defending the title are as low as 3/1. At 4/1, South Africa, who are the top ODI team in the world at the moment are second, and whats certainly a sign of changing world order in cricket, Australia are third with odds on them stacked up at 5/1.

Why India are being rated so highly is rather easy to explain. The just-concluded Indian Premier League season two in South Africa has helped almost everyone in the teams World Cup-bound squad of 15 get quality match practice, that too on bouncy wickets of the kind they should expect in England. During the IPL, some of the Indian players such as RP Singh, Suresh Raina, Pragyan Ojha and Irfan Pathan were in sensational form, while others too chipped in. No wonder then that, on paper, India are looking the most balanced, and therefore formidable, side.

As all-rounder Andrew Flintoff recently noted: The Indians just played in a world-class competition in Indian Premier League (IPL). Naturally they are the favourites (to win the T20 World Cup). As the IPL was played in South Africa it also helped, especially the South Africans who also figured prominently in the league. Some of them, such as Yusuf Abdulla, even earned their national call-ups on the basis of strong performances. Also the fact that their first XI played all IPL games will definitely help South Africa in the World Cup. Getting good competitive games is a big help towards the preparation, former South African skipper Kepler Wessels had said.

The IPL also shows why Australia arent bookies first choice anymore. The star performers from Down Under included Adam Gilchirst, Matthew Hayden and Shane Warne. In other words, those players who have long called it quits. Unfortunately, the void they have left is simply too big to easily filled, even if the team is Australia.

All said and done, India need learn one more lesson the IPL has taught us again the vagaries of Twenty20. Cricket was anyway a game of uncertainty, but the shortest format is even more unpredictable. There simply no time to recover from a slip-up and it, in turn, has levelled the playing field. If last year rank outsiders Rajasthan Royals stunned everyone to win the league, this time the silverware went to Deccan Chargers who had taken the wooden spoon in the previous season. And didnt India themselves came back from the dead two years ago to win the CUP