Matt Carter gives his assessment of the ICC World Twenty20 2014 so far, with a number of talking points that have come to the fore during the opening 10 days in Bangladesh.
The arrival of an ICC World Twenty20 was met by groans from the hardened purists; however those doubts are thus far lacking in significant substance.
Following the conclusion of a hugely successful preliminary round we have been treated to three outstanding games, several stunning individual performances and a relatively even contest between bat and ball – all this played out in front of both sizable and engaged crowds.
There have been games which haven’t quite captured the imagination, but it would be unrealistic to expect constant classics – even with the misconception that for Twenty20 to be enjoyed games must to be close.
A tournament that was signposted as being tough to call still very much holds that characteristic, however both India and Sri Lanka have laid down early markers.
India have belittled the theory that having participated in just five Twenty20 Internationals since the last tournament would count against them, with MS Dhoni’s side delivering a pair of carbon copy clinical victories against fancied duo Pakistan and the West Indies.
Granted their batting line-up is yet to be tested such has been the dominance of their spin-led attack but the early signals suggest India will take some beating.
While both India and Sri Lanka already have a foot in the last four door, deciphering who will join them is akin to shooting fish in barrel.
In Group One, New Zealand looked in pole position to progress, however losing their heads in pursuit of 171 against South Africa let not only their opponents back in but was also a welcome result for England.
Group Two is similarly muddy, although the result of the Australia-West Indies clash on Friday will make things clearer.
Such is the minimal disparity between the sides that it would not be inconceivable for both groups to come down to net run-rate.
With rumours of more evening storms, the dreaded Duckworth/Lewis method that stung England on Saturday could strike again. This imminent threat heightens the importance of the toss given the difficulty involved when defending totals against the Duckworth/Lewis system.
With the second qualification slots so up in the air it would not be a huge surprise to see the weather prove a hugely influential factor in who makes the final four.
The psychological impact of possessing a world-class death bowler was in full evidence in South Africa's chase of 166 against Sri Lanka. Despite looking on course for victory the panic of facing Lasith Malinga's hand grenades at the climax of their innings led to them losing a cluster of wickets – which incidently left an unrealistic target that final over.
Dale Steyn showcased the psychological impact by hauling South Africa past New Zealand from a position in which their campaign was looking perilous, in the process disparaging the view that this tournament is a spin-bowling arena.
Fielding is considered a vital component to achieving success in Twenty20 cricket, yet so far what we have witnessed has been largely substandard, with the majority of games being littered by a plethora of drops, missed run outs and stumbles.
Australia, Pakistan and India to name a few have all fell victim to spilling chances, while even the normally ruthless South Africa were criticised by stand in captain AB de Villiers following defeat against Sri Lanka.
In a tournament where the margins are as minimal as ever, who can get this aspect of their game in order might just gain a crucial advantage.
It has taken Pakistan just two games to showcase their split personality syndrome.
A listless 10th successive World Cup defeat against India had led to many wondering quite why they had tipped them for the trophy, yet they were soon reminded as a side transformed held their nerve to claim a vital win over Australia on Sunday.
It’s difficult to gauge how their tournament will pan out but without doubt Pakistan remain a serious danger.
Throughout these early exchanges those players causing the most substantial stir are not the usual suspects.
Long-time underperformers such as JP Duminy and Umar Akmal have both produced match-winning efforts, while for Australia it was Glenn Maxwell who brought the fireworks rather than the much-vaunted trio of David Warner, Shane Watson and Aaron Finch.
In the case of Sri Lanka Kushal Perera has been the most eye-catching performer – although it is worth noting that only two players have scored more runs than the opener since October 2012.
In regards to bowlers few would have anticipated Amit Mishra being the standout bowler at this stage but the leg-spinner has been the focal point of India’s miserly attack, at the same time Imran Tahir is making light of South Africa’s supposed lack of spin bowling threat.
With the exception of the ever-consistent Virat Kolhi and Dale Steyn’s gung-ho spell against New Zealand it might just be that those considered the world’s best are still finding their feet, but it can’t be denied the initial indications are that this could be the breakthrough tournament for a number of hitherto peripheral players.
Make no doubt about it Chris Gayle has never been the quickest out of the blocks, after all in a similar manner to his countryman Usain Bolt why rush when you possess unmatchable acceleration?
That ability to move through the gears though has been somewhat missing thus far, at the end of the 15th over against Bangladesh he had 26 off 35 – a disappointing return for any Twenty20 opener let alone the man considered the world’s best.
With Marlon Samuels also struggling to regain the form of 18 months ago, if the West Indies are to progress it is imperative that Gayle regains his touch.
Once the dust had settled on the Netherlands' mind-boggling chase over Ireland, there were certain worries regarding how they might compete – concerns which became a reality on Monday afternoon as the Dutch capitulated to the lowest ever International Twenty20 score.
Take nothing away from that unforgettable Friday afternoon, however this is a side who up until that chase had performed largely disappointingly throughout the group stage and recently failed to qualify for the ICC World Cup in 2015.
Sri Lanka are more ruthless than most at 'Associate-bashing' but it could get very messy for the Netherlands.
Any hopes that Bangladesh’s dismal showing against Hong Kong was merely the hosts taking their foot off the gas were quashed by a thumping defeat against the West Indies on Tuesday.
Bangladesh’s batsman once again folded meekly, however this was a defeat constructed by both woeful fielding and an undisciplined bowling effort.
It was yet another heart-breaking showing for an expectant and vociferous home support, which makes progress for Bangladesh now an extremely arduous task. Success for the home nation is regarded a pivotal ingredient to a successful tournament, so to see the hosts struggling is not only a dent for the spectacle but more importantly a huge shame for their passionate long suffering fans.
It’s generous of the ICC to provide us with a day of reflection but for a tournament that’s success has been built around its short and snappy nature, the inclusion of a midweek rest day makes little sense - particularly considering the previous day’s action only contained one rather than the normal two games.
As a result numerous sides will have had to wait four days to between games, which is hardly conductive to the flowing breathless tournament that a Twenty20 World Cup should be.
© Cricket World 2014