Just five days after the end of the IPL season, international cricket resumes with the World T20 in the Caribbean. Although, it will be a less frenzied affair with no DLF maximums, no timeouts and praise be to God, no Danny Morrison, it is not exactly an example of good scheduling by the ICC. And coming under a year after the last World T20 in England, no-one could argue that cricket in general is adopting a less is more approach to the youngest form of the game.
The competition itself is structured in the same way as a year ago with four initial groups of three being whittled down to two groups of four in the Super Eight stage, before the semi-finals and final. Group A sees holders Pakistan up against Bangladesh and Australia, and with Shahid Afridi captaining pretty much anything could happen. Shorn of Shoaib Malik, Rana Naved, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan through the mismanagement of Ijaz Butt and one of the best T20 bowlers in the world in Umar Gul through injury, Pakistan may even struggle to get past unpredictable Bangladesh.
Despite losing a warm-up match to Zimbabwe and Brett Lee to injury, Australia has to rank amongst the favourites for the trophy; though the decision to leave Doug Bollinger at home could come back to haunt them. We'll take the Aussies to top the group and Bangladesh to get past Pakistan and cause more match-fixing allegations from their oh so wonderful politicians.
Group B sees last year's runners up Sri Lanka take on New Zealand and Zimbabwe. King Kumar's boys should do well on the expected slow pitches of the Caribbean and New Zealand don't generally get beaten by the minnows, so despite the boon of beating Australia, the ever-improving Zimbabwe are likely to miss out here.
The wonderful story that is Afghanistan qualifying for the competition is likely to end abruptly with India and South Africa the opposition in Group C, and the hosts West Indies and England will have too much firepower for Ireland in Group D.
Then the real business will start with the Super Eight stage although the bizarre way in which those groups will be constituted is confusing to say the least. By our reckoning, assuming Australia, Sri Lanka, India and England win the preliminary groups, the two Super Eight groups will be Bangladesh, New Zealand, South Africa and England in Group E, and Australia, Sri Lanka, India and West Indies in a much tougher looking Group F. But we could be wrong and we're already on the phone to Professor Stephen Hawking in order to get a better understanding of how this works.
Anyway, taking for granted that we are correct; and for England's sake we hope we are, then the Reverse Sweep's belief that 2010 is going to follow 1966 and 2003 in the annals of English sporting glory looks a distinct possibility. With T20 being a great leveller, the selectors finally picking the right squad and England having a good balance between bat and ball, Paul Collingwood's men should be right up there in contention for the trophy. We take them to go through to the semi-finals with South Africa from this supposed Group E.
If Group F looked like this then it would rightly be called the group of death. All four teams look strong with India led by the excellent MS Dhoni and Australia the two favourites for the competition. But don't rule out the hosts who will be looking to make up for their disappointing performance when hosting the World Cup in 2007. With Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, West Indies have the impact players that win a T20 match in a five over spell. And with T20 having that element of unpredictability we go for the hosts to join India in the last four.
With South Africa likely to choke in the semi-final and the West Indies probably running out of steam, we at the Reverse Sweep are predicting an India-England final with the absence of Sachin Tendulkar meaning that England will finally break its duck of having never won a limited overs ICC world trophy. But we won't be massively surprised if we get it wrong.
In terms of the cricketers to look out for, here are our tips (one per country) as the likely stars: England - Kevin Pietersen, India - MS Dhoni, South Africa - Dale Steyn, West Indies - Kieron Pollard, Australia - Cameron White, Sri Lanka - Angelo Mathews, Bangladesh - Tamim Iqbal, New Zealand - Ross Taylor, Pakistan - Shahid Afridi, Zimbabwe - Elton Chigumbura, Ireland - Niall O'Brien, Afghanistan - Mohammad Shahzad.
Let the festivities begin, and then roll-on quickly so we can get some test cricket...