Out of this world!
Sky Sports' experts run the rule over the best players in the universe as the World Twenty20 blasts off!
Last Updated: 05/06/09 4:39pm
The summer blasts off with the launch of the ICC World Twenty20 - and you can follow every blow exclusively live on Sky Sports.
Over the next three weeks the cream of the world's cricketing talent will gather at Trent Bridge, the Oval and Lord's to thrash out who is the undisputed king of the 20-over game.
And, of course, Sky Sports will bring you every six blitz, free-hit and Super Over as the tournament unfolds.
SKYSPORTS.COM: England have home advantage and plenty of momentum going into the tournament, while Paul Collingwood is talking up his side's chances. So how do you think England will fare?
Michael AthertonWinning the tournament is a realistic aim for the players - especially with home advantage on their side. Rather than thinking of themselves as underdogs, they should believe they have every chance of becoming champions. That said, I don't think they will win it given there are other sides out there who appear far more capable.
Luke Wright has the ability to score heavily and now that he has been paired with Ravi Bopara at the top of the order he must be given a chance because if one thing is for sure in Twenty20 cricket, you've got to go hard at the top of the order. But I am sceptical about whether Wright can perform consistently as an opener and that could be a problem.
Ian WardBased on Wednesday's more ruthless showing against the West Indies, England may well get a lot further than I thought! They should qualify for the Super Eights but will then need to step up two gears to perform against the real big guns.
England did everything right at Lord's; they bowled well and had interesting plans that were well implemented but crucially when things weren't going well they weren't afraid to change things around and try something new. It's great to see Adil Rashid playing well because that will give England real confidence if they do decide to choose to play two spinners.
Nick KnightI've always felt that Andrew Flintoff's injury has severely dented England's hopes. They will definitely miss his bowling in the middle overs and at the death so I can only put them as an outside-chance despite home advantage. I can't see them having the consistency to reach the semi-finals.
Rashid has confused the selection issued for me because playing five front line bowlers - Anderson, Broad, Sidebottom, Swann and Rashid - is suddenly a realistic option, with Bopara and Collingwood filling in when needed. But that would mean leaving out Dimitri Mascarenhas, which will be a really tough decision.
David LloydEngland mustn't get too weighed down by fear; they should just go out there and whack it. There was no theory to what Luke Wright did against the West Indies. He just hit it, he smacked it. I like that. People say he won't do this and he won't do that, but he is a joker in the pack.
He might come off now and again but when he doesn't come off it means Kevin Pietersen's in nice and early. Why doesn't Pietersen open in Twenty20, many people ask? Well, if Wright gets out early he effectively will! Graham Napier can't get into this team; the clue to that with him is that, surprisingly, he's not in the first six for Essex! England have got to play absolutely out of their boots to get to the semi-finals. If they did, that would be a major surprise.
I think England will do better than people expect, actually. I think they will continue the momentum of the good work they have done so far this summer; they've got some very talented cricketers in the side now like Bopara and Pietersen, Anderson, Collingwood just to name a few. But I think it is pushing it to say they will win it just because of the group they are in.
If they qualify and they go into the South Africa, Australia, India group that will be hard work. I struggle to see them getting through that group by beating everyone. Can they beat those teams? Of course they can but who can tell on the day. The other group looks the easier to go through but I'd give England a decent chance to be honest.
SKYSPORTS.COM: The cream of the world's cricketing talent is right here on our doorstep but who in particular are you most looking forward to watching?
Usually someone does impose themselves on the competition and I think this time around it could be AB de Villiers. He's right on top of his game and, while he is reasonably experienced, he is still young enough to keep improving and is incredibly athletic in the field too. Judging by what I've seen so far, Rohit Sharma also looks a player to watch while Ravi Bopara is more than ready to take centre stage.
I can't wait to see Lasith Malinga in full flow. He was blisteringly quick at Lord's on Wednesday and is as likely to hit a batsman on the head as he is the foot. He is a fantastic death bowler who possesses a slower ball that is exceptionally difficult to pick up because he puts under-cut on it that makes it dip on the batsman at the last minute. The problem he and the likes of Muttiah Muralitharan and Nuwan Kulasekera is can his batsman get him enough runs to defend?
I hope Bangladesh do well. I like Tamim Iqbal at the top of the order - as a left-hander I'm a bit biased but he has got a completely fearless approach and I really enjoy watching him so I hope he goes well. Plus, it's always box-office stuff to watch Chris Gayle bat; the way he goes about his batting is awesome. If I was to move away from the left-handed openers, I'd have to say Dale Steyn, Brett Lee, Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Johnson because there aren't so many real out-and-out quicks around these days.
AB de Villiers was box-office at the IPL but if Yuvraj Singh can replicate anything that he did in South Africa in the inaugural World Twenty20 then he'll be as spectacular a player as any out there. I won't be taking my eyes off Rohit Sharma or Suresh Raina either. They are only young lads but they are absolutely brilliant and it only shows how massively Twenty20 has enhanced their game.
I'm a big fan of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Amid the media chaos that is Indian cricket it's excellent that they have such a cool dude as Dhoni in charge. He's an excellent captain and a very, very fine player who is suited to Twenty20 cricket.
A lot of sides have wicketkeeper-batsmen as their gun players - look at McCullum and Haddin, for instance. Dhoni can be unorthodox as a 'keeper; sometimes he still looks a bit like the goalkeeper but he's better than that. He doesn't make many mistakes and is the heartbeat of India's side. They are not half as effective without him.
SKYSPORTS.COM: The Twenty20 concept is simple - hit it long and large so let's finish with a simple question. Who do you think is going to be crowned as champions?
Twenty20 cricket is always a bit of a lottery in as much as the brevity of the game does not give the best players time to impose themselves on the match. I was at the Oval on Wednesday where India looked a very slick outfit, while South Africa can boast a very powerful line-up and you can never write off Australia. I'll also be keeping an eye on New Zealand too because they could be the dark horses this time around. Personally, I think the final will be between India and South Africa and that the Proteas will nick it because they have a decent fast bowling attack and plenty of good power hitters.
I agree. The form horses are South Africa. The bowling, led by Dale Steyn, has plenty of wicket-taking ability and their fielding is so dynamic. That alone probably saves them at least 15 runs a game, which doesn't sound much, but in the context of Twenty20 cricket, that's huge. Mark Boucher is brilliant behind the stumps and on the batting side of things they have the experience of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, the explosive hitting of Herschelle Gibbs and Albie Morkel, plus people who can work it around. They are a highly professional unit and highly motivated. All in all, it's a great balance.
If it's not to be South Africa, then Sri Lanka have a great shout because they've got the best balanced bowling attack. I don't know whey their batting hasn't quite clicked as yet because a lot of them have been playing in the IPL. I always like Sri Lanka in one-day cricket; they are an experienced bunch of cricketers with some pedigree behind them. I genuinely think the sub-continent sides will have a genuine chance in this competition if the sun stays out and bakes the wickets; the wristy nature of sub-continent batsmen means they can really get on top of the ball and work it around if the pitches stay hard.
This is a bit like the Premier League! You get a lot of people who will say Liverpool or Chelsea will win it but the majority will go for Manchester United. It's a similar story here. As much as I like Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side, I can't disagree with the majority because I like the power and strength of South Africa - they have got a really strong backbone to their team. Yes, the game is a complete lottery but their side has plenty of IPL experience and will have a good handle on what's going on.
As long as they get rid of their 'choke' label, South Africa have to be up there with India as favourites for the title. Once you get to that knockout stage anything can happen and I'll probably favour South Africa because of the conditions here in England. It's going to be a colder, wetter week and I think they will play well in those conditions.
Plus they've got a well-balanced attack. They've got a couple of spinners in van der Merwe and Johan Botha - they are not a one-dimensional pace attack. They are well led by Smith, who is an incredibly good captain, who gives the side a spark in the same way Dhoni does for India, and he's won here in England in Twenty20 cricket so for me South Africa are the side to beat.