The art of war, the art of victory, the art of defeat. All three share similarities and the wielder of all three shall be victorious. As Sun Tzu once wrote, "The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself".
That being said who will be the first to falter? Which nation shall be the first to succumb to the pressure, the expectations, the hopes of the masses?
The Twenty20 format is not one to be messed with. History has shown it only takes one member of a team to turn a game on its head and it is safe to say that there are a number of game changers within the tournament with talents stretching far beyond the mortal limits of the boundary ropes. Fans around the world will be well aware of the household names in T20 cricket; from the muscles of Gayle and Afridi to the guile of Ajmal and Narine, the talent which shrouds the T20 format is limitless… Yet so limited.
Every single Pakistani fan will remember the carnage which ensued during Saeed Ajmal's battle with Michael Hussey. The deathly silence which followed was harrowing, each and every Pakistani fan being subjected to the Dementor's Kiss - their souls being sucked straight out of their bodies. And yet for the Australian contingency - jubilation. The final over of the T20 World Cup semi-final between Australia and Pakistan was a great advert for T20 cricket. With the world's most cunning T20 bowler set to defend 18 runs off the last over, most would have been insane to doubt him. Even the Australian fans were short of hope before one titanic six from Michael Hussey sowed the seeds of doubts in Ajmal's mind which lead to an astonishing Australian victory one that haunts Pakistani cricket fans to this very day.
For this reason we must never forget the underdogs, the overlooked. Robert Hughes once said "The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize". This could not be more relevant to the World Cup this year. With many pundits and fans alike backing the big teams to fire, it is extremely important not to forget to cast an eye over the newcomers to the tournament.
19 year old Mark Chapman will have a lot to say to the supposed bigger teams of the tournament. The Hong-Kong all-rounder scored an unbeaten 53 from 33 balls, including 4 fours and 3 sixes against a Zimbabwe side boasting the experienced spinner Prosper Utseya. Yes it was a warm up match and yes Zimbabwe have an unflattering T20 record, but Hong Kong have shown that they can defeat a full member nation and that should be enough to cause the seeds of doubt to grow.
I do hope the bigger teams are paying attention. To go into a T20 game with complacency or a negative mindset is not a good move, especially against opponents with nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you start poking sticks at a bee hive you are bound to get stung and I hope the top sides bring their protective gear with them or things may turn ugly.
Shakib Al Hasan the poster-boy for Bangladeshi cricket had a quiet warm-up game against a UAE team boasting an array semi-professional players. To put this into perspective Shakib Al Hasan who is ranked 4th in the world in the all-rounder category ended up with no wickets and 9 runs to his name, whilst Khurram Khan the UAE skipper and airline steward who also happens to be at the ripe old age of 42 compared to Shakib's 26 ended up with 44 runs to his name compared to 9 from Bangladesh's finest.
This isn't to say that we should expect the giants to be slain in front of baying audiences, rather this is a warning to the bigger sides to leave complacency with them at the airport. I hope for the sake of cricket that they do and we see 16 teams hungry for success on the big stage. Who after all wants to witness a boring game of T20 cricket.
One thing is for sure: T20 cricket produces excitement and we can expect a lot of it. Hundreds of sixes will rain down from the heavens, whilst a plethora of stumps will be shattered. Expect your heart to pound uncontrollably; to be filled with joy only to have it dashed away at a moment's notice. To the fans of cricket a warning for you also - be prepared. Be prepared for the roller-coaster ride that is T20 cricket. Be prepared to back your team to the dying moments, because without you T20 cricket and cricket in general will be lost. One thing I haven't mentioned enough is your part in the tournament, the 12th man; without you there would be no spectacle. Without your cheering or jeering the players themselves would have nothing to look forward to or be frightened of.
You can make a difference too; just remember one thing; when it comes to Twenty20 cricket:
The Road to Glory: Underdog Victorious
The Road to Glory: Underdog Victorious